The Reader Part 1, Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes
The Reader

The Reader

The Reader Part 1, Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Despite their fights, the narrator describes this time with Hanna as generally happy. Michael notes that Hanna “had trumped herself with her accusation that [he] hadn’t wanted to know her,” and to prevent him from accusing her of the same thing, they went on the bicycle trip that he had earlier proposed. The narrator then wonders excuse what he had told his mother and father, but he cannot remember.
Hanna inadvertently shows that her pride prevents her from admitting she was wrong and leads her to agree to things she was previously unwilling or uninterested in. Later, when Hanna is on trial, it is this same pride that proves her downfall. The narrator’s inability to remember the lies he told his family about the bike trip is another example of his distance from others.
Themes
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
As Michael’s pocket money isn’t enough to cover the trip for both himself and Hanna, he sells his stamp collection at a much lower value than it is worth. Days before they leave, Hanna gets restless, fussing over what to bring and leaving Michael to plan out the route they will be taking. When they leave, the weather is beautiful, and they cycle past rich green woods, castles, and rivers, pointing out the sights to each other. They begin a routine of having sex in the mornings, cycling during the day, and sleeping through the nights.
Michael’s decision to sell his stamps, a collection of monetary and possibly personal value, for Hanna signals his growing distance from his past self. Hanna’s insistence that Michael handle all the planning, even minute details such as choosing food off the menu, is another hint from the narrator about Hanna’s illiteracy.
Themes
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
Hanna lets Michael plan not only their bicycle routes but also the other logistics of their trip, such as choosing the inns, where they register as mother and son, as well as the food from menus. One morning, Michael decides to wake early to bring Hanna breakfast and leaves her a note. However, when he returns, she is inexplicably furious that he left. She whips his face with a leather belt and then breaks down into tears. Michael, who is shocked at her violence and sobs, doesn’t know what to do. Eventually, after Hanna has calmed down and they have had sex, Hanna tells Michael that she was upset because he left with no explanation. When Michael tells her he left a note, Hanna claims that there wasn’t one. Brushing off Michael’s protests, Hanna has Michael read to her, and she becomes fully engaged with the story.
Michael’s second attempt at a small romantic gesture is again thwarted by Hanna’s inability to read and domineering attitude. Unable to understand the note he left her, she becomes angry and violent against him, but doesn’t explain the real reason for her distress in order to hide her illiteracy. Just as Michael lies to his parents about his time with Hanna, Hanna lies to Michael about the note. This sudden act of violence also hints at a darker side to Hanna.
Themes
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
Again, the narrator feels to need to declare his and Hanna’s happiness in spite of their fight. He feels that the fight and his witnessing of Hanna’s tears made their relationship more “intimate” and that their lovemaking transcended mere “possession” of each other. The narrator then mentions a poem his teenage self wrote for Hanna. Imitating German poets Rainer Rilke and Gottfried Benn, the young Michael writes that when he and Hanna open themselves and become submerged in each other, they are more themselves.
Whereas Hanna and Michael had previously “taken possession” of each other, thereby objectifying each other, Michael believes that their fight allows them to grow closer and to know each other better. Ironically, though, the origin of the fight — Hanna’s secret illiteracy — also illustrates how little they truly know each other.
Themes
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
Get the entire The Reader LitChart as a printable PDF.
The reader.pdf.medium