How does Schlink present the past shaping the present in The Reader?

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Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator
In "The Reader," Shlink highlights the way in which a person can be held captive by the guilt of his or her conscience based on past events. He also raises questions as to the natur of integrity over a lifetime: should a person be judged by the best of what they've done, the worst, or a combination thereof? The story begins with the illness of Michael Berg, who is befriended and taken care of by Hanna? Hanna takes care of Michael and the two share an intense sexual affair for years. Michael feels great affection and passion for Hanna. Later, Michael learns that Hanna is on trial for commiting war crimes as an SS guard. He feels guilty for loving a war criminal. His guilt represents the guilt and shame of post-war Germsny, as the nation struggled to make sense of and amends for the atrocities of the Holocaust.
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The Reader

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