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The Reader is set in post war Germany in the 1950's and goes through the 1990's. The story is narrated by Michael Berg. Michael tells the story of how, in his youth, he met Hanna. Hanna is an older woman and Michael is a teenager. They begin an affair, and he reads to her when the meet. This is the highlight for Hanna. She enjoys hearing the stories that Michael reads to her. One day he goes to visit her and she has disappeared. It will be years later when Michael sees her again.
The Great Gatsby and The Reader, has some comparisons, that affect us as readers. In The Great Gatsby and in The Reader, we see how a young man in his youth, is drawn into a world he is not quite ready for. Nick Carraway becomes embedded in the life of Jay Gatsby. We see that Nick is innocent in the ways of the wealthy. Jay opens up this life for him. In The Reader, Michael is drawn into the life of Hanna. Michael is also innocent in the ways of the world. Hanna shows brings him into adulthood, by seducing him. Seduction is a common theme in both books. Nick is seduced by the power and partying of the wealthy. Michael is seduced by Hanna. Both men become adults throughout the events of the stories. We are affected by the life Jay Gatsby lives. We see that, through the eyes of Nick, Jay offers a way of life that is not lived by many. We can see how the innocence of both Nick and Michael are being taken away. Neither one of them will ever be the same again.
In contrast, The Great Gatsby, is full of bigger than life characters. Jay Gatsby is a character who lives in a fantasy world. Most of the characters in The Great Gatsby, are self absorbed, and have their own agendas in life. They use other people to get what they want.
The Reader uses a real tragedy to make us see the horrors that humans can bring to each other. We also see the goodness that can come out of people. Michael learns of the horrible crime Hanna is accused of. He sees that instead of Hanna admitting to something that she has kept a secret, she is willing to spend most of her life in prison. She doesn't want the disgrace of not being able to read and write to be found out, yet the disgrace of what she was apart of during the war, is made public. She would rather people think she is capable of horrendous acts then to let people know she is not well educated. Michael wants to help her, but instead keeps her secret. We see that there is good in Michael. He has a big heart and feels remorse for the things that were done. He and Hanna, even after her death, try to right some of the wrongs that were done.
Both of these stories are full of tragedy. The writers of both, try to impress upon us, that the human heart is full of deceit. They also try to tell us that deep down, we all have a place in us that wants to make things right. The sadness we feel when we read these stories, show us what great writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Bernard Schlink are. They bring human emotions to the forefront of their stories, that leave us thinking about our own human nature.
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