The Reader

The Reader

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Building on Bahnhofstrasse Symbol Analysis

Building on Bahnhofstrasse Symbol Icon

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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Building on Bahnhofstrasse Symbol Timeline in The Reader

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
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
...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)
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
...handling him roughly “almost [like] an assault.” She brings him into the courtyard of the building, and cleans the vomit off him and the sidewalk with water from an outdoor tap.... (full context)
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
After inquiring where he lives, the woman walks Michael to his building on Blumenstrasse. When Michael is home, he tells his mother about his sickness and the... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
The narrator, an older Michael, reflects on the Bahnhofstrasse building, noting that it is eventually torn down and replaced by a crowded five-story apartment... (full context)
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
The Image as Memory and the Gaze Theme Icon
Later on in his life, Michael had recurring dreams about the building. In the dream, he would be walking on an unfamiliar street in an unfamiliar town,... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
The Image as Memory and the Gaze Theme Icon
With flowers in hand, Michael goes to the Bahnhofstrasse building, where another tenant tells him that the woman’s name is Frau Schmitz and that... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
The Image as Memory and the Gaze Theme Icon
...that is “surprised, skeptical, knowing, reproachful.” Michael, full of shame, flees the apartment and the building. (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 17
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
...to find that she hasn’t been to work. He tracks down the owner of the Bahnhofstrasse building and is told that Hanna moved out that morning. He then goes to the... (full context)