The Reader

The Reader

The Reader Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Outside the woman’s apartment, Michael finds that she is not home and decides to wait outside her door until she returns. When Frau Schmitz finally arrives in the uniform of a streetcar conductor, she appears unsurprised but not annoyed that Michael is there. Tired, she asks him to fetch two coal scuttles from downstairs, and Michael, eager to comply, runs to the cellar, only to accidentally dislodge a mountain of coal around him. When he returns to Frau Schmitz’s apartment with the coke (a type of fuel made from coal), she bursts into laughter, and he realizes that he’s completely covered in coal dust and laughs with her.
That Michael must wait for the woman and that he eagerly complies with Frau Schmitz’s request signals the dynamic that will dominate their affair. While Michael is usually waiting for the woman, both logistically for their lovemaking sessions and emotionally, the woman is the dominant and more powerful partner in their relationship.
Themes
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
Frau Schmitz offers to clean his clothes and run Michael a bath in the kitchen. Though she promises not to look as he undresses, she does so anyway as he self-consciously climbs into the tub. While Frau Schmitz beats the coal dust out of his clothes, Michael washes himself and has an erection. The woman soon returns with a towel, stretching it out in her arms for Michael, whose back is to her. She rubs him down but lets the towel fall, hugging him from behind, putting her hands on his chest and his erection. Frau Schmitz, who is also naked, says, “That’s why you’re here!” and the two have sex. Michael is at first tentative, but soon becomes more confident.
Again, the woman takes the role of a mother figure by offering to clean Michael. However, the woman shows that she is aware of Michael’s desire for her. Just as Michael stared at the woman voyeuristically, she returns his gaze by watching him bathe. Though the woman is able to determine why Michael is there, she seems not to have considered the morality of her seduction of a 15-year-old boy, nor the consequences that the affair could have on him.
Themes
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
The Image as Memory and the Gaze Theme Icon