The Reader

The Reader

The Reader Part 2, Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
While the court flies to Israel as “a combined judicial and touristic outing,” Michael plans to spend his two free weeks studying, but finds himself unable to concentrate. He imagines Hanna cruelly standing by a burning church, sending off her readers to Auschwitz, and screaming orders to prisoners, as well as the images of Hanna he has held onto from their affair: Hanna with her stockings, in front of the bathtub, riding her bike, laughing. He also imagines combinations of these images (such as a cruel Hanna listening to him read), which make him simultaneously ashamed, aroused, angry, and afraid.
The mental images of Hanna that Michael has stored in his mind become mixed with the horrific images evoked by the trial, causing him to feel even more conflicted about Hanna. This also complicates the novel’s idea of images as memory—nostalgic mementos of the past become mingled with evidence of past horror.
Themes
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
The Image as Memory and the Gaze Theme Icon
Michael realizes that the images he had of the camps are undermining his memories. The narrator reflects on the scarcity of photographic evidence back then and on the plethora of books and movies that have embedded the Holocaust into collective memory in the present day. The narrator claims that “Back then, the imagination was almost static,” as the Holocaust seemed too horrible to imagine. The images from Allied photographs and survivor testimony were recycled so often they became clichés.
Images of the Holocaust function as memory for Michael and the other spectators. Unlike the present day, in which Holocaust movies and media abound, for Michael as a young law student, the atrocities can only be remembered as “static” clichés, as the Holocaust was simply incomprehensible.
Themes
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
The Image as Memory and the Gaze Theme Icon