The Reader

The Reader

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The Reader Part 2, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
During the trial, Michael reads the English translation of the daughter’s book, as it is the only version available to him. Though he initially believes the book feels alien and distant because of the translation, when he reads the German version, he discovers that the book itself creates distance. The daughter writes with “sobriety,” “exud[ing] the very numbness” that Michael observes in the trial’s spectators.
This chapter recounts the events in the daughter’s book, which serves as evidence for the trial. Just as Michael noted about survivor literature, the numbness that engulfs Holocaust survivors and that engulfs him during the trial is “exuded” by the daughter’s book.
Themes
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
Hanna’s name doesn’t appear in the book, though he sometimes thinks he recognizes her in the one of guards who is “young, pretty, and conscientiously unscrupulous in the fulfillment of her duties” and who reminds the daughter of “Mare,” a guard from another camp who was also “young, beautiful, and diligent, but cruel and uncontrolled.”
Hanna’s emphasis on the details of her work (and simultaneous ignorance of the big picture, or the real results of what she’s doing) seems familiar in this description.
Themes
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
The mother and daughter’s last stop after Auschwitz is the camp near Cracow, whose conditions are slightly better and whose selections are smaller than at Auschwitz. However, when the camp is closed, the prisoners are forced to march and run in the winter with inadequate clothing and little more than rags and newspapers to protect their feet. Within a week, half the women die.
The prisoners are forced to participate in a death march. Toward the end of the war, as Allied forces advanced on Germany, the Nazis forced tens of thousands of prisoners to march in poor conditions away from the death camps in order to cover up their atrocities. Thousands died along the way.
Themes
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
While the guards commandeer a priest’s house, the prisoners shelter in the church. However, bombs soon fall and the church’s steeple burns, crashing through the roof of the church. When the women realize what is happening they scream and throw themselves at the doors, but they don’t open. As the roof was open, most of the women did not suffocate but burned to death. The mother and daughter survived only because the mother had hidden them in the gallery, though it was closer to the fire. They stood against the narrow walls, waiting until the next night to leave, much to the astonishment of the villagers.
The chapter concludes with the unexpected survival of the daughter and her mother, whose testimonies are the primary evidence against the guards in the trial. In this brutal first-person account we get a brief glimpse of the kind of horror Hanna is accused of perpetuating.
Themes
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
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