How is redemption explored in The Reader?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Redemption in Schlink's work is complex.  I don't see it as readily present because the issue of redemption in a post- Holocaust world is intricate and elusive, at best.  Certainly, Hanna might be seen as representing some type of redemption in overcoming her illiteracy and reading works from Holocaust survivors.  Her suicide is almost an acceptance of her ultimate responsibility, something from which she cannot escape or evade.  The redemption that she shows is one that accepts her own culpability in what happened, as well as her instruction to give her money to the victim of the fire.  For Michael, as with survivors of the Holocaust, redemption is more complex.  I think that Michael ends up learning that he is unable to fully operate outside of the shadow of the Holocaust.  His affair with Hanna as well as with the entirety of the Holocaust, as most Germans who embraced something with implications of evil, requires him to make sense on a daily basis of his past.  There can be no arbitrary or clear declaration of redemption.  It must be earned almost daily with constant acknowledgement of the shadow of the Holocaust as a part of one's being.  In doing so, redemption might be there for Michael might be finally coming to a point of emotional acceptance and maturation in his own state of being in the world.  It is here where redemption might be seen in Michael's character.


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