The Reader Essay

878 words - 4 pages

Memory is a powerful concept. Often when an individual undergoes a traumatic situation, the ramifications of these actions seep into an individual?fs psyche unknowingly. In effect this passes through memory and becomes sub-consciously buried within a person?fs behavioural patterns generally. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink explores the concept of a young mans subconscious desire for a woman whom he ?gcan?ft remember to forget?h (1Memento) as she is so deeply inlaid within his soul.

Critically acclaimed as ?gA formally beautiful, disturbing, and finally morally devastating novel. From the first page?c [it] ensnares both heart and mind?h ( Los Angeles Times), the novel tells the story of a young boy, 15, Michael Berg, through his own interior narration. He finds himself emotionally and sexually attached to a woman of over twice his age, Hanna Schmitz. She then breaks his heart by deserting him. Michael is emotionally torn by this incident and consequently develops a subconscious obsession with her.

Years after the mysterious disappearance of Hanna, Michael marries a woman named Gertrude. ?gGertrude was smart, efficient, and loyal?h (3p 171) yet she never fulfilled Michael in the same way as Hanna had previously. Unknowingly he drove her away through his constant comparisons and dissatisfaction that Gertrude could not be the woman he wanted. ?gI could never stop comparing the way it was with Gertrude and the way it had been with Hanna; again and again, Gertrude and I would hold each other, and I would feel that something was wrong, that she was wrong, that she moved wrong and felt wrong, smelled wrong and tasted wrong.?h (p 171) In his relationship with Gertrude, Michael cannot remember to forget Hanna as, at the time, he doesn?ft realise but subconsciously he is comparing the two and sabotaging his relationship.

In the unconscious state, dreams are the purest form of truth into a person?fs subconscious. In Michael?fs dreams he physically yearns for Hanna?fs presence. ?gIt took a while before my body stopped yearning for hers; sometimes I myself was aware of my arms and legs groping for her in my sleep, and my brother reported more than once at table that I called out ?eHanna?f in the night?h (p 85). The helpless nature of Michaels actions show how much Hanna has affected his subconscious and although he is made aware of his actions, his physical dependence comes from the deep scaring within him.

On another occasion, after Hanna?fs death, it is documented that Michael once again subconsciously desires her presence. Michael dreams of Hanna while travelling through the...

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