The building on Bahnhofstrasse is the wide, balconied building not far from Michael’s street. The site of their affair and Hanna’s home, the building can be seen as a metaphor for Hanna herself. For example, as a small child, Michael fantasized about the building, imagining it to be elegant and full of grand things and people. When he visits Hanna in her apartment, however, he discovers that the building’s interior is shabby and plain, in contrast to its lavish façade. Similarly, Hanna’s façade—her body—occupies Michael’s fantasies, only for him to discover later that her inner nature is, if not monstrous, then at least unquestioning and passively immoral, leading her to commit war crimes as a Nazi prison guard. Later, as an adult, the building haunts Michael in dreams where he can never enter the building, nor see through its windows. Like the building, the memory of Hanna haunts Michael but never fully presents itself to him. Just as the building’s windows are opaque in Michael’s dreams, so too are Hanna’s thoughts and motivations.
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The timeline below shows where the symbol Building on Bahnhofstrasse appears in The Reader. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
...in October, Michael is walking home from school when he becomes violently sick near a building on Bahnhofstrasse (the name of a street). Already ashamed for becoming increasingly weak, he becomes... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
Part 1, Chapter 3
Part 1, Chapter 4
Part 1, Chapter 17