The Reader

The Reader

The Reader Part 1, Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Though he doesn’t remember the lies he told his parents to cover up his trip with Hanna, Michael does remember what he had to do to convince his mother and father to let him stay home alone for the last week of his vacation while the rest of the family went elsewhere. His younger sister, who had threatened to stay at home with him rather than go to a friend’s house, blackmails him into getting her jeans and a sweater. Because Michael had no money, he and his sister shoplift the items from a department store. Soon after that, Michael shoplifts a silk nightgown for Hanna from the same store and only narrowly escapes.
Now that Michael is fully engaged in his relationship with Hanna, he is not the same person he once was. Whereas at the beginning of Part 1, he was consumed with guilt over desiring Hanna, now he willingly steals for her, and he is no longer disturbed by the immorality of his actions. Michael’s willingness to commit crimes after succumbing to his desire for Hanna allegorizes the complicity of those who excuse or accommodate wrongdoers.
Themes
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Having successfully stolen the clothes for his younger sister, Michael looks forward to spending his week home alone with Hanna. One night, he invites her to his house for dinner. Though she examines the house’s spacious rooms and objects curiously, she appears uncomfortable.
Though Michael regularly stays at Hanna’s apartment, this is the first time she has seen his house. The sharp contrast between their homes represents the contrast between their social classes and daily lives. Whereas Michael belongs to a middle-class, educated family, Hanna is a member of the lower class, is illiterate, and has no family. These social differences cause Hanna to feel uncomfortable, creating even more distance between the two.
Themes
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
The narrator then describes the many “pictures” of Hanna that he has kept in his mind and the way he can watch them on his “mental projector.” These pictures include Hanna putting on her stockings, Hanna standing naked with the towel stretched out in front of her, Hanna riding her bike, and Hanna standing in his father’s study, her eyes looking tired.
Here the narrator elaborates a bit on the theme of memory as a series of lasting images, as he disconnects from the linear narrative to run through “slides” of his recollections of Hanna.
Themes
The Image as Memory and the Gaze Theme Icon
In the study, Hanna asks Michael to read something from one of his father’s books. Though he does, neither of them understands it. Hanna asks if he will write books himself, but Michael replies that he doesn’t know. After they finish dessert, they go to Hanna’s apartment. Though Michael wants Hanna to stay at his house, she wants to leave, and Michael intuits that she feels like an intruder in his house. At Hanna’s apartment, Michael gives her the nightgown, much to Hanna’s delight. The image of Hanna laughing, dancing, and checking her appearance in the nightgown is another picture that has stayed with the narrator.
That neither Hanna nor Michael understands the passage about analysis mirrors their lack of understanding of their roles in the world or to each other, a fact that will only become apparent to them in Part 2. Hanna’s discomfort in Michael’s home is a sign that they will never be able to be completely open with each other. When Hanna asks Michael if he will write books himself, she is perhaps trying to gauge whether he will become as distant and unreadable to her as the book in his father’s study.
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
The Image as Memory and the Gaze Theme Icon
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