The Reader

The Reader

The Reader Part 2, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The judge asks each defendant why she didn’t unlock the doors, and each answers that she was unable to do so, because they were in shock or wounded or busy helping the wounded, and that they had not seen the church fire yet. The judge tells each of them, “The record indicated otherwise”—as the report from the SS archives suggested that the female guards had stayed behind to prevent the prisoners from escaping and kept them locked in a burning church. The women say the report is false, and one defendant points to Hanna, claiming that she wrote the report as a cover up.
As Hanna cannot read or write, the defendant’s accusation that Hanna wrote the report is obviously a lie. Yet as we will see, Hanna seems determined to continue to hide her illiteracy at any cost—even if it means being accused of things she didn’t do, and suffering years of prison as a result of such accusations.
Themes
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
When the judge asks Hanna why she did not unlock the door, Hanna tells him they had no other option, as they were outnumbered. Hanna claims that they couldn’t let the prisoners escape, because they wouldn’t have been able to restore order. Trying to defend herself, she insists that they had guarded the prisoners to prevent them from escaping, as so many had already died, but her attempts to defend herself only make her look worse. Hanna tells the judge that she and the other guards discussed together what they would write on the report, but the other defendant again accuses Hanna. A prosecutor suggests that they call a handwriting expert, but then Hanna tells them there is no need, and she confesses to writing the report.
Hanna is unable to parse the impression her explanations make on the judge and the spectators. Explaining why she did not unlock the door, she shows that she privileged her ability to control the prisoners over their lives. In order to hide her illiteracy, Hanna falsely confesses to writing the report. Just as her pride caused her to agree reluctantly to an Easter vacation bike trip with Michael, her pride pushes her to make a false confession that will severely damage her defense.
Themes
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon