The Reader By Bernhard Schlink Stylistic Features & Language Techniques Stylistic Features & Language Techniques Narrator Schlink's use of a first person narrative throughout the novel lends a credibility necessary to this type of fictional personal account. The first half of the story deals only with a young Michael and allows the reader to watch his transition into manhood. The language Schlink uses to describe Michael's recollections of the first time he saw Hanna's naked body beautifully capture his naiveté. The scene in which Michael loses his virginity to Hanna is written so eloquently, it's as if the author is recalling his own life. The Gazette: 2000 Stylistic Features & Language Techniques Tone Michael's narration of the story, which is very interior in its focus, creates a very contemplative and introspective mood. Schlink creates this through the use of an interior monologue full of questions that both the narrator and the reader want to answer. In the second half of the novel the romantic tone of the story changes to a much heavier one, as Michael attends a criminal trial seminar only to find Hanna is the woman accused of terrible war crimes. Schlink brilliantly writes a heavy subject matter in a lighter tone while maintaining respectability. Stylistic Features & Language Techniques Style Schlink uses both an unsentimental tone of the detective novels he had previously written and a more reflective, sometimes poetic, approach more consistent with the weighty material. The former is exemplified by the bluntness of chapter openings at key turns in the plot, like "Next morning, Hanna was dead." The latter comes into play in passages like "It was one of the pictures of Hanna that has stayed with me. I have them stored away, I can project them on a mental screen and watch them, unchanged, unconsumed." He also deftly uses chiasmus at times to accentuate Michael's confusion. Wikipedia: 2006 Technique: Chiasmus chiasmus ‘kee AZZ muss’ (Figure of Speech) the criss-cross figure It’s Greek for the letter “X”. The chiasmus contains two groups of words that mirror each other. “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” There was a belief that figures like the chiasmus triggered our instinctive love of expressive rhythm. It worked for John F. Kennedy; when he told young people, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”, thousands of them joined the Peace Corps. From the novel: "I didn't reveal anything I should have kept to myself. I kept to myself something I should have revealed”. The setting Important as the novel is set in post WWII Germany. Novel tackles the problems of forgiveness and guilt and the denial of truth in the wake of the holocaust Schlink asks the question: is it possible to rationalise the actions of those who were active participants in the holocaust, without lessening the horrific nature of the holocaust, and demeaning those who suffered and died? Stylistic Features & Language Techniques Guilt and the German generation gap Schlink explores the Holocaust from an historical distance and has as a central character a perpetrator instead of a victim. Schlink's central idea is how his generation, and indeed all generations after the Third Reich, have struggled to come to terms with the crimes of the Nazis ("the past which brands us and with which we must live"). This is played out through the trial and the questions that Michael asks. Wikipedia: 2006 Technique: Microcosm and Macrocosm Macrocosm and microcosm is an ancient Greek schema of seeing the same patterns reproduced in all levels of the cosmos, from the largest scale (macrocosm or universe-level) all the way down to the smallest scale (microcosm or sub-sub-atomic or even metaphysical-level). (<www.wikipedia.org> accessed 01/06/09) Hanna and Michael's illegal relationship enacts, in microcosm, the relationship of older and younger Germans in the postwar years. "My love for Hanna was, in a way, the fate of my generation, a German fate," Michael concludes. Implying that there was a love for the older generation that sometimes caused guilt to the younger members of society because of the older generations’ involvement in the war. This is enhanced when Michael hitchhikes to the concentration camp site to get what he hopes will be some first-hand knowledge. The driver, an older man offers an explanation for people’s actions. Stylistic Features & Language Techniques Illiteracy as a symbol Hanna’s illiteracy becomes a metaphor for modern understanding of the Holocaust. We see everything from a distance (2nd hand) Hanna, once she attains literacy and understands the situation more fully than we can, cannot live with herself anymore. Hanna is too ashamed to admit she is illiterate and allows the blame to be pinned upon her. Hanna picks one prisoner to read to her, like Michael would later on, only to send that girl to the gas chamber. Did she do it to make the last months of one almost certain to die a little more bearable? Or to keep her secret safe? Michael's inability to both condemn and understand springs from this. Wikipedia: 2006 Stylistic Features & Language Techniques Schlink therefore asks through Michael: “What should our second generation have done, what should it do with the knowledge of the horrors of the extermination of the Jews? We should not believe we can comprehend the incomprehensible, we may not compare the incomparable, we may not inquire because to make the horrors an object of inquiry is to make the horrors an object of discussion, even if the horrors themselves are not questioned, instead of accepting them as something in the face of which we can only fall silent in revulsion, shame and guilt. Should we only fall silent in revulsion, shame and guilt? To what purpose?” Genre: Bildungsroman German term signifying "novel of formation" or "novel of education." The subject of this novel is the development of the protagonist's mind and character, in the passage from childhood through varied experiences and often through a spiritual crisis into maturity, which usually involves recognition of one's identity and role in the world (Abrams). (http://personal.georgiasouthern.edu/~dougt/terms.htm) Schlink employs this genre to explore h the “coming of age” of the narrator, Michael Berg and how it affects his relationship with broader German society at this time. Most German readers would have an understanding of the Bildungsroman genre. Michael’s personal journey and formation is similar to that of others in his generation as they come to terms with the Nazi legacy. Other famous examples of this genre from the Western canon are Great Expectations, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye and Jane Eyre.