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Michael and Hannah in “The Reader” by Bernhard Schlink

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“Leaving was her punishment.” Throughout “The Reader” the relationship between Hanna and Michael changes. In Part 1 their relationship begins and develops into a very sexual and personal affair. He blames himself for her leaving him. In Part 2 it turns political and they are very separated throughout the trail, Michael also learns about the truth about Hanna. In Part 3 Hanna kills herself because she can’t face Michael because of what she has done.

Part one is where they first meet. When Michael is throwing up outside Hanna’s house she takes him in and cleans him up. But the relationship doesn’t start until Michaels mother tills him to go and visit the lady that helped him when he was sick. Michael then starts paying her casual visits that turn into an everyday affair. Their relation starts very quickly into the sex scenes then after a few days Hanna asks Michael to read to her, at first he thinks it strange and asks her to read but she says. “You have such a nice voice, kid, I’d rather listen to you read it myself.” But we later learns, in Part two that she is an illiterate.

They go on a bicycle trip during Michael’s school holidays. One morning Michael leaves Hanna a note to say he was going out to get some breakfast. But when he returns she accuses him of just leaving and she said she didn’t find any letter. She did see the letter but she couldn’t read it so she pretends she didn’t see it and calls him a liar. Hanna holds the power over the relationship in part one, because she doesn’t want to seem weak and till him about herself and what she did. At the end of Part one Hanna leaves without saying goodbye or telling anyone where she was going. This is because she thinks she is getting too close to Michael and he might find out about her past and she only wanted him to read to her, not to have a real relationship.

In Part two their relationship is very distant and more politically involved rather then been very personal like in part one. It has been a few years since Michael has seen Hanna but he has never forgotten her.

He has had another relationship with a girl his age but it didn’t work out because he was expecting it to be like Hanna’s relationship. “Even if I had said goodbye to my memory of Hanna, I had not overcome it.” He wants to move on with his life but his body and mind misses her too much, he want’s a woman like Hanna.

Michael would attend every trail and watch Hanna form behind, decoding her posture and moves, she never turns around to look at him but she knows that he is there. During the trail it is when it becomes clear to Michael that “Hanna could neither read nor write.” He understood why she had let him do all the writing and reading on their bicycle trip, and when she lost control when he left her that note.

He starts to also understand why she did or didn’t do many things during their relationship. “So I was still guilty. And if I was not guilty because one cannot be guilty of betraying a criminal, then I was guilty of having loved a criminal.” He knows that she left him but he still thinks that he betrayed her, that’s why she left. He still feels the pain that “cruel Hanna aroused me sexually.”

In Part two Michael finds out about the truth and pain of their uncovered relationship.

Their relationship in Part three at the start is the reading to Hanna on tape that Michael sends to her in jail. But he never leaves a personal note or talks about himself on these tapes. After four years of their “word-driven, wordless contact, a note arrived. “Kid, the last story was especially nice. Thank you. Hanna.” So from these tapes Hanna learns to read and write. But Hanna’s notes are never personal, she doesn’t ask how he is, and Michael continues to send the tapes but still doesn’t add a personal note.

When it is time for Hanna to leave jail, Michael is contacted, because he is the only person she has had contact with, and he is asked to look after her. Michael does everything for her, get a house, find a job and buy clothing and food. But the night before she is due to come out she hangs herself. We aren’t given any reason why she would have done this, but she could have thought that she would rather die then meet Michael face to face again because from what all she has done and now that he knows her truth, she is ashamed of what she has done to him.

Their relationship is very complex, she asks him to read then she disappears without any reason. During the trail he slowly works out the harsh truth about her and then starts to understand why she acted the way she did. Then she comites’ suicide because she wouldn’t be able to face Michael because she feels guilty of what she has done to him.

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