The Reader Part 1, Chapters 16-17 Summary

Bernhard Schlink

Part 1, Chapters 16-17 Summary

Michael does not know what Hanna does with her time when she is not working and they are not together. He realizes that she only allows him to share a small space in her life and that he must be content with that. When Michael questions Hanna about her comings and goings, she laughs and says, “The things you ask, kid!” and either ducks the question or outright refuses to answer. Once upon Michael’s asking, Hanna runs down a list of household chores that she claims to do when he is not around.

Michael never runs into Hanna by accident on the street or in any of the places in town. He is surprised that he has not seen her at the movie theater because she loves the movies and will go to see any picture that is playing. She and Michael often talk about movies; they both love one western in particular starring Richard Widmark playing a sheriff.

Only on one occasion has Michael seen Hanna outside by chance. In the days leading up to that afternoon, Hanna had been acting oddly and was short of temper, apparently from some pressure that she was suffering. Michael tries to calm her mood, and her harshness makes him feel rejected. He tries to read to her, but she dis not interested and instead insists on bathing him. Michael is attracted by her smock clinging to her sweating body and afterwards the two make love. Then Hanna tells him to leave to see his friends. Michael leaves to go to the swimming pool, and after a while of mingling with friends, he looks up and sees Hanna standing in the distance. He does not know what to do: should he run to her? Remain seated? When he gets up, he takes his eyes off her for one moment, and in that moment, Hanna disappears.

The next day, Hanna is gone. When Michael arrives at her apartment, she is not home although a view from the window suggests that nothing has changed. Michael waits for a while on the stairs and then goes to use a telephone to ring the streetcar company. He is told that Hanna Schmitz never showed up for work that day. Michael inquires about Hanna’s whereabouts with the owner of her apartment building, and he is told that Hanna moved out that morning—the furniture does not belong to her and, therefore, was left behind. Michael goes to the streetcar company, and the administrator tells Michael that he offered Hanna the opportunity to be trained as a driver. The administrator cannot understand why she threw that chance away.

At home, Michael yearns for Hanna, and he grows sick at the days go by. He feels guilty about not having gone to Hanna when he saw her standing outside the pool. He tries to convince himself that maybe it had not been her, but he knows the truth.