A Review of the Character of Micheal As Portrayed By Bernard Schlink in His Book, The Reader

January 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

Examine the view that Schlink presents Michael as a selfish lover

Arguably, Schlink presents Michael as a selfish lover as he conveys a feeling of secrecy and deceit and that he is unhappy with the life he has and no longer wants it. Schlink uses the short sentence of ‘I did not tell her about Hanna’ to imply that maybe he was very happy with her and doesn’t want his wife knowing about her because then it would no longer be their secret, which makes him a selfish lover because he is hiding a very important part of his past and hiding it from her. However, another interpretation could be that he may be ashamed of what he did and who she turned out to be and so is trying to hide his wife from the truth which would make him a selfless lover.

Schlink uses the repetition of the word “wrong” to describe Gertrud as Schlink chooses to make Michael compare her to Hanna which could be seen as selfish as Gertrud will never be Hanna and it is unfair of him to compare the two when they are so different. Also, the word ‘wrong’ connotes to the idea that she is not how he wants her to be and so she is ‘wrong’ in his eyes and implies that she is imperfect to him.

Schlink uses the first person to show how Michael feels and to show his inner thoughts as can be seen when he goes to see Hanna and Michael feels that he ‘had disappointed her before’ and that he wanted to be a better person and ‘make up for it’. These quotations imply that he is aware of his faults and the way in which he has hurt people, or disappointed people in Hanna’s case, and that he perhaps wants to change his ways to be better, and that maybe he wants to be a better person for Hanna. This could therefore imply that he still feels an emotional connection towards her and that he is trying to be a selfless person by becoming a better person. Although the character of Michael appears to have feelings for at the start of the extract, when he goes to visit her, he internally questions ‘why should I have given her a place in my life’ which could be seen as a selfish thought and attitude as although his romantic feelings towards her are changing, possibly diminishing as he sees how much she has grown older and changed, it is still selfish as she made a place for him in her life and it seems as though he is not reciprocating that. Furthermore, Schlink describes Hanna as having an ‘old woman’ smell and ‘grey hair’ and uses a rhetorical question as though Michael can hardly believe that is her. Schlink portrays Michael as not only a selfish lover but also a selfish person as this description and questioning thoughts from Michael imply that he has put her on a pedestal and that he has created an idealised, perfect view of Hanna in his mind that when he sees her in real life, she does not match up to what he expected and is therefore selfishly judging her although it is his own fault as she is not and cannot be perfect but that is how he created her in his mind.

Although there is some evidence to support the view that Schlink portrays Michael as a selfish lover, it is harder to believe this as this extract has an unreliable narrator of the character of Michael himself and so tries to avoid conveying a selfish attitude.

Overall, Schlink uses the first person to successfully show Michael’s inner thoughts and true feelings to portray him as both a selfish character and selfish lover although Michael’s actions and thoughts could also been seen as selfless by some critics as he is trying to protect his wife from the truth and spare people’s feelings.

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