Hannah Baker, the protagonist of Thirteen Reasons Why, narrates the story with stark and bitter honesty. Saddled with a reputation that has little basis in truth, she is essentially friendless and isolated, and longs for people to look past the rumors that plague her and to see her as she really is. Hannah has been victimized by gossip and innuendos that objectify her and imply that she has a promiscuous nature. The few students with whom she tries to connect as friends invariably end up betraying her; as a consequence, Hannah finds that she is always on guard.
Hannah endures relentless cruelty from her peers. Justin, with whom she shares her first kiss, spreads rumors about her; Alex puts her on a list that leads others to view her as a sexual object; and Tyler invades the sanctity of her home. Jessica then slaps her because of provocation from another; Courtney uses her for her own convenience and falsely sullies her reputation still further; Zach steals her encouragement; and Ryan steals her thoughts. Although there is no doubt that Hannah is a victim, there are enigmatic elements in her personality that cause her to contribute paradoxically to her own difficult situation. Hannah does not balk when Courtney invites her to stage a steamy scene to trap Tyler, nor does she initially protest when Marcus begins his sexual advances at the diner. When she finally connects with Clay, who offers her the caring relationship she craves, she panics and rejects him without explanation.
Hannah's character is complex and tragic. She is human and eminently fallible; knowing better than anyone the damage that can be caused by gossip, she cannot help but relate information about Tyler that would better remain unsaid. As he listens to her story, Clay gently chides Hannah for perversely acting like those who persecute her when she talks about Tyler; after her death, her words result in Marcus and Alex feeling free to terrorize Tyler, throwing rocks at his window because they think he is "a freak." It is clear that Hannah is driven to the point of self-destruction by the cruelty of others, but in the end, the awareness that she shares the darker aspects of human nature along with her tormentors, coupled...
(The entire section is 908 words.)
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