The Reader Part 2, Chapters 10-12 Summary

Bernhard Schlink

Part 2, Chapters 10-12 Summary

Michael has no memory of the Friday seminars, but he does remember vividly the Sundays when he would go off on his own to discover new areas. While wondering through the woods, he suddenly realizes that Hanna has been harboring a dark secret—she can neither read nor write. Michael puts together the clues that have been there all along: Hanna’s insistence that others read to her, turning down higher ranking jobs, admitting to writing the SS report. Michael wonders whether or not Hanna’s obvious fear of exposure drove her to commit terrible crimes over the course of the years, but in the end, he knows that Hanna is not an evil person and that she simply reacted out of fear of having her secret revealed. He realizes that Hanna ran away not because of him, but because she feared what might happen at the streetcar company. Yet Michael still feels guilty for having betrayed Hanna near the end of their relationship.

In court, after Hanna claims that she wrote the SS report, the lawyers of the other four defendants immediately lump all blame on Hanna. The villagers who were the only witnesses to the crime cannot testify whether or not Hanna was the spokeswoman for the group because they were not close enough to witness the specifics of the events; however, the lawyers push the villagers to admit that they cannot with certainly claim that she was not the leader of the group. Hanna’s arguments on her behalf become desperate until she finally gives up arguing. Michael also has had enough of the unjust proceedings and considers meeting with the judge to tell him that Hanna is illiterate. But he knows that Hanna will do anything to protect her secret even though in his mind she gains nothing by preserving this false self-image.

Michael seeks his father’s advice on whether or not he should tell the judge about Hanna’s secret. Being a philosopher, Michael’s father tells him that one cannot make judgments about what is best for another person. Happy that he will not have to speak to the judge, Michael displays his relief, and his father tells him that he is not without responsibility—Michael should speak to Hanna to convince her that her decision is damaging to her life. Michael has no idea what he should say to Hanna, and his father expresses his remorse that he has never been able to really help Michael or his other children with their problems.