The Reader

The Reader

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The Reader Part 1, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next night, while longing for Frau Schmitz, Michael feels that he falls in love with her. As the narrator, he wonders whether his love for her is the price for sex and confesses that he views sex as an indulgence that he feels obliged to make up for by “trying at least to love her…by facing up to it.” He then recollects an early childhood memory in which his mother gave him a warm bath. As his room was unheated, he viewed that bath as an indulgence, and wondered why his mother was “spoiling” him. Returning back to the main story, the narrator recalls that he returned to school the next day both because Frau Schmitz “had so spoiled [him] that afternoon” and because he wanted to show off his “new manliness.”
The narrator reinforces Frau Schmitz’ role as his mother figure by comparing sex with Frau Schmitz to the warm bath that his mother gave him as a child. Michael’s urge to make up for the sex by going to school suggests that he feels guilty for having “indulged.” It also creates a divide between his affair with the woman and his schooling. While Frau Schmitz represents Michael’s desire to forget the world, and thus to become complicit in forgetting the crimes of her generation, his school represents his education about the harsh realities of the world and the past.
Themes
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
After he sleeps with Frau Schmitz, Michael returns home late to find his parents and siblings already eating dinner. When asked why he is late, he lies, saying that he had gotten lost, and announces that he will be returning to school. Michael’s mother reminds him of the doctor’s recommendation to wait an additional three weeks, but turns to her husband for the final decision.
Michael’s decision to cover up his time with the woman signals the distance that his affair with her will create between himself and the people around him.
Themes
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
Michael’s father “looked thoughtful, the way he always did when [his] mother talked to him about the children or the household,” and Michael wonders if his father is actually thinking about his son or his work as a philosophy professor. Though Michael sometimes resents his father for privileging his work over his family, he feels a sudden love and understanding for his entire family, realizing that soon he will be an adult and more distant from them. Though surrounded by his family at dinner, Michael feels “as if [he] were saying goodbye.” Even as he yearns for Frau Schmitz, he feels “homesick” for his family. Recognizing his son’s announcement as a statement rather than a request, Michael’s father agrees that he can return to school. Though Michael is happy, he feels as if “[he’d] just said [his] final goodbyes.”
As Michael’s father thinks about his son’s return to school, Michael reflects on his father’s relationship to the rest of the family, revealing his inner conflict over his father’s emotional distance. Though he has lingering feelings of resentment, Michael also feels nostalgia for his family—even as they are still presence—demonstrating the growing distance between himself and his family created by his desire for Frau Schmitz.
Themes
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon