The Reader

The Reader

The Reader Part 2, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Michael and his classmates attend the trial, which is in another town. The defendants are sitting with the backs to the spectators, and when the defendants’ names are called, Michael realizes that Hanna is one of them. Though he recognizes her, he “felt nothing.”
The indifference Michael finally found after Hanna’s departure remains, rendering him numb.
Themes
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
The Image as Memory and the Gaze Theme Icon
When the judge questions her, Michael learns that Hanna joined the SS voluntarily despite an offer of a promotion at her previous job. Hanna’s lawyer is “too hasty and too zealous” in his defense, potentially damaging her chances. Hanna then testifies that she had served in Auschwitz and another camp, and since the war had lived in various towns, registering with the police each time. Now aware that Hanna has been detained by the police, Michael realizes with shock that he “had assumed it was both natural and right that Hanna should be in custody,” not because of her crimes but because he wants her completely out of his life so that he doesn’t have to face her again. We then learn that Hanna has been detained because she ignored summonses, and her lawyer fails to convince the judge to lift the detention order.
Just as Michael’s teenage desire to be with Hanna set his moral compass askew, now his desire to keep Hanna away is compromising his moral judgment. Michael assumes that Hanna should be imprisoned not because of the wrongs she committed (though we don’t know what those are yet) but because of his own selfish desire not to face her. The reason for Hanna’s detainment — her ignoring of summonses — is another hint to the reader of her illiteracy. Michael is again acting as a kind of voyeur regarding Hanna, watching her trial while she (presumably) doesn’t know that he’s there.
Themes
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
The Image as Memory and the Gaze Theme Icon