"The Reader" by Bernard Schlink about post WW2 Germany.

Essay by anon_1691High School, 11th gradeA+, July 2003

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More than just a book, The Reader reminds that the concepts of guilt and responsibility are not clear-cut ideas, and even more so during the Nuremberg Trials. Guilt is simply one of the many human emotions, but the feeling of guilt is unique to everyone and there is no one meaning for guilt. Though guilt is such a strong feeling, judgments must not be made simply on how "guilty" one feels for their actions. If that is so, then Hanna would never have gone to jail at all. Judgments should instead be made on the actions of a person and whether the person was right or wrong in what he/she did. This is the concept of responsibility. How responsible a person was for their actions should determine how "guilty" a person is for their crimes. But responsibility is such a difficult question to resolve and deal with because how can you judge how responsible a person is for their actions? In the case of Hanna's trial, how was responsible? The powers that be made the decisions, but people under them carried out these decisions.

So who is responsible? The people who made the decisions, or the people who carried out the decisions? It seems that the person who holds the knife must be the one responsible. But fortunately and rightly so, justice is never so easy.

Guilt and responsibility, being human emotions can never be pinned down, because it is human nature to be fickle and therefore there will always be a gray area when it comes to determining the true meaning (if there is such a thing) of guilt and responsibility. The problem is that we have come to believe that guilt and responsibility is the same thing, but in reality they are poles apart. This misunderstanding comes...