In "The Reader", how do Hanna and Michael demonstrate deception and self deception and why?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hanna demonstrates deception mainly in regards to the fact that she cannot read.  She is willing to lie in order to cover the fact that she is illiterate; otherwise, she is pretty forthcoming and honest, even to her detriment.  Take the trial for example.  She was completely honest about her role in the death of all of those women, she was willing to answer questions and take the blame, but the one thing that she lied about was the statement that she supposedly wrote and signed.  She was willing to be honest and condemn herself to prison in regards to the deaths of human beings, but, she wasn't honest about the tiny and not-criminal trait of being illiterate.  Her deception occurred with Michael too--she never stated to him that she couldn't read, she just asked him to read books to her.  She quit her job at the transportation office, giving up a promotion, because it would require her to read.  Instead of being honest about it, she just quit.  Deception comes into play in Hanna's life when it comes to illiteracy, but not much else.  Her deception manifests itself as an illogical self-pride that is a detriment in her life.

Michael is deceptive in almost every way when it comes to disclosing his relationship with Hanna.  He lies to his parents, and doesn't even tell any of his friends about their relationship.  Then later, he doesn't tell anyone connected with the trial about his relationship or his knowledge of Hannah's illiteracy, even if it could have helped her receive a lighter sentence.  When he goes to his father for help, he is deceptive also, phrasing things as a hypothetical "what if you know someone who..." instead of revealing that he knew Hanna in any way shape or form.  So, he enjoyed his relationship with her, loved being there, and made time to be with her, but denied his relationship or any knowledge of her to anyone, for most of his life.  His deception took the form of a strange cowardice and shame.

I hope that these thoughts helped; good luck!

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The Reader

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