The Reader Part 2, Chapters 16-17 Summary

Bernhard Schlink

Part 2, Chapters 16-17 Summary

Michael cannot face Hanna, so he decides instead to approach the presiding judge. He cannot find the words to say to Hanna, but even though he feels betrayed by her, Michael cannot settle with doing nothing. Also, part of him feels that he needs to get revenge on Hanna by meddling with her private affairs. The judge knows that the seminar group has been attending the trial, so he gladly invites Michael into his office. He makes easy conversation with Michael about the seminar, the general atmosphere of the trial, university studies, exams, and the law. Michael answers all of the judge’s questions, but he cannot bring himself to have the intended conversation. Soon Michael hears through the open window all the sounds of people heading off for the evening: car doors slammed, engines started, the noise of children playing in the empty parking lot. The judge stands and says goodbye.

Outside, Michael makes his way to the train station. He takes a commuter train back to the university, and the train makes every stop along the way. Michael takes note of the changing scenery, people, sounds, and smells. He begins to feel the same numbness that had taken over him during the trial take over him once again, and although he is not happy with his silence in the face of the judge, he believes that he has done the right thing. He feels able to return to and live his everyday life.

At the end of June, the verdict is handed down: the other four defendants are given terms in jail, but Hanna is sentenced to life in prison. It takes several hours for the judge to read through the entire verdict, and during the reading, the spectators, many of whom have been in regular attendance throughout the trial, continue to make remarks about Hanna. Before the verdict was read, the spectators chatted loudly as the four other defendants were brought into the courtroom. However, when Hanna entered, the crowd fell silent. Hanna is dressed in a close-fitting black suit that unintentionally mimics an officer’s uniform, and the crowd assumes that Hanna is mocking the trial and the verdict. Several people openly shout insults at Hanna, but she does not appear to hear anyone in the crowd. While the judge reads the verdict, Hanna sits motionless and looks straight ahead. Michael has sat in the same seat since the beginning of the trial, and he hopes that Hanna will glance at him. However, she remains looking ahead, her stare one that wishes to see nothing.