The sins of the parents: an analysis of german trauma and memory after WWII in Bernhard Schlink's novel "The Reader"
Gañán Andrades, Maider
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The Second War World had a huge impact on German society and left its trace in the cultural history of the country. For this reason, we can find many movies and literature based on the war but also on the years following the post-war, which helps us understand the actions of the different generations. A marvelous example of one of this novels is The Reader written by Bernhard Schlink, which gives great importance to the German guilt. The story mediates between past and present by focusing on the relationship between two persons who belong to different generations, Michael and Hanna. The aim of this paper is to explore these characters’ memories of German history by bearing in mind the generational gap that separates the two and analyze how it affects their perspectives. The different methods in which they confront the past, exemplify the contrast between the war generation, to which Hanna belongs, and Michael’s postwar generation. Thus, the analysis is divided in three sections. In the first one, the characters are examined following Marc Augé’s figures of forgetting which are “remembering the past”, “suspense” and “new beginning” while stressing the difference between the two characters. The second section will discuss the importance and influence of trauma in their identity by focusing on why it appears and the consequences that it has in their behavior. The last section will analyze Memory Contests and Affective Memory Icons according to the theory applied by Fuchs with the purpose of determining how the characters deal with the past when they are forced to remember by the appearance of said icons. In this way, the paper shows that the different behaviors in which they confront and remember the past, exemplify the contrast between the war generation to which Hanna belongs and Michael’s postwar generation.