Because Hanna admitted to writing the report, the other defendants are able to claim that she had made the decisions and forced them to do her bidding. The villagers who had met the defendants cannot confirm or deny this, and are unwilling to admit anything that could incriminate themselves for not having stopped the women. Hanna, who still confirms what she believes is true and denies what is not, eventually gives up and speaks only when questioned.
Because Hanna falsely admits to writing the report—choosing a murder charge and its accompanying punishments over the revelation that she’s illiterate—the other defendants are able to take advantage of her confession in order to avoid taking responsibility for the charges against them.
Michael debates whether or not he should tell the judge that Hanna is illiterate, that though she may be guilty she is not as guilty as the other defendants make her out to be. Yet Michael realizes that Hanna is not willing to expose herself as illiterate even for a shorter prison sentence. He wonders what she stands to gain from the “false self-image which ensnared her and crippled her and paralyzed her,” noting that the energy she spent hiding her illiteracy could have easily been used to learn to read. Without revealing specifics, Michael uses comparable examples to discuss the problem with friends, but doesn’t find any helpful advice.
Michael ponders over why Hanna lied in order to maintain her secret, observing that she could have diverted the energy she used in hiding the secret toward learning how to read, thus allowing her to live her life more fully. Ironically, however, Michael makes and will continue to make the same mistake throughout much of his adulthood—by hiding his past with Hanna, and allowing that secret to strongly affect his life.