Show how there could be more than one interpretation of the relationship between The Great Gatsby and The Reader.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that one particular interpretation that can be made of both works is a Modernist one.  Seeing both works in a Modernist light can help to reveal the thematic power of each.  In Fitzgerald's work, there is a shift in consciousness and thinking.  The traditional narrative where economic wealth and social standing defines power is subverted by the hollowness that exists in such a condition.  Fitzgerald shows a shift in thinking through the emptiness of the lives of those who live with wealth and power. Tom, Daisy, and Jordan represent the degree to which power alienates and cuts others off from one another.  There is a shift in thinking that reveals itself in the novel.  In the same way, there is a shift in power within Shlink's The Reader.  Hanna is a Nazi guard, the embodiment of power in World War II.  Michael is a university student in law, another representation of power in the modern setting.  Yet, both examples of power are shown to be fraudulent and hollow upon the conclusion of the war.  Hanna is powerless to stop the inquiry against her and the laying of punishment at her feet as the architect of the murder of innocents.  Michael cannot voice anything in way of reason and logic in being silent and watching someone he once loved unfairly sentenced.  In both works, a Modernist interpretation would speak to how power shifts in a world where little except human suffering is constant.

Another interpretation would be to engage in a Post- Modern analysis of each.  Within both works, there is a dominant Postmodern reality that nothing is absolute and there is little in way of transcendence.  In Fitzgerald's construction, transcendence in terms of unifying and totalizing notions of the good is absent.  There is nothing that can serve as a force of totality or unity within consciousness.  Only emptiness and a hollowness is evident.  Justice, in both legal and moral senses, is absent.  Restoration is only found when people leave, such as Nick.  This same sense of fragmentation is evident in Schlink's work.  Hanna takes her own life, presumably as a way to compensate for the terrors she inflicted on others.  Michael tries to act in the absence of a divine power in seeking to make amends with one of Hanna's victims, but it is to no avail.  Only the small tin is accepted, and that as a representation of the life and memory that was lost.  In the end, both works speak to the Postmodern interpretation where only fragmentation and loss exist, the only constants in the modern world.

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The Great Gatsby

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