Analysis Of Bernhard Schlink 's ' The Reader '

989 Words Aug 13th, 2014 4 Pages
In Bernhard Schlink’s philosophical novel, The Reader, the attempt to separate the past events from the future is contrasted with the intertwined nature of the past and future. The book investigates whether one should acknowledge and accept one’s history or whether one should consign a negative past to oblivion to begin a new future. Schlink explores this through characterization, symbolism and structure.

The myriad of symbolic imagery in The Reader explores the connections between the past and the future. Symbolism of cleanliness emphasizes the plight of the post-war generation to obliterate history and begin a fresh life. The audience is made aware of this firstly when Hanna “washed the vomit into the gutter.” The vomit is a metaphor for the history that has contaminated the new generation. The audience can perceive, however, that the attempts to expunge the past are futile. Even though the mess may be removed from sight, it still inhabits the subconscious of the generation. Therefore, the past will still exist within the minds of the future. Further symbolism of cleanliness is when Hanna attempts to “beat the dust out of [Michael’s] clothes” and wash him. Philosophically, the attempt to remove any residue of the past can only be a temporary fixture before the past returns to confront one. This is echoed through the symbolism of buildings. The “building on Bahnhofstrasse… was torn down” and replaced with a new building. As time progresses, things change and history…
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