Michael’s Change from Youth to the Present

Michael’s development in the relationship with Hanna Schmitz plays a very important role. In the beginning, this relationship is described more as a mother-child relationship, this is also shown by Hanna’s nickname, “Kid”, for Michael.
This is why he is always described as a child in the first part of the novel: “I had run away like a child, instead of keeping control of the situation, as I thought I should. I wasn’t nine years old anymore, I was fifteen.”

Through his love affair with Hanna, he loses this childishness, and at the same time, he gains sexual experience and has the opinion that he had grown up: “It was also true that I wanted to show off my new manliness. Not that I would ever have talked about it. But I felt strong and superior, and I wanted to show off these feelings to the other kids and the teachers.”
This gives him a lot of self-confidence for his age: “I knew my way around women, and could be comfortable and open in a friendly way. The girls liked that.”
The other side of this new safety is reflected by the disappearance of Hanna. Michael tries to compensate for this event by certain patterns of behavior “escapes”: “But I felt strong and superior, and I wanted to show off these feelings to the other kids and the teachers.”

This is the first attempt to get in touch with his past by compensating for the injury he has suffered from in the disappearance of Hanna. Another attempt is his marriage to Gertrude, which ends in divorce.
It is hereby clarified that the development of Michael has some “gaps” or residues that he cannot handle because he clings to his first relationship with Hanna. This is also evident in relationships with other women: “I tried to approach my later relationships better, and to get into them more deeply. I admitted to myself that a woman had to move and feel a bit like Hanna, smell and taste a bit like her for things to be good between us.”
That is the reason Michael always compares his love life and his other relationships with his first relationship with Hanna and is never completely satisfied.

Therefore, you can say that Michael’s development and his early manhood initially gives him certain advantages, but are in contrast with his later problem of comparing any relationship to the relationship with Hanna. The result is a precocious teenager who can not handle the complexity of the Nazi past, but is nevertheless bound by them. For Michael, the confrontation with the Nazi past is therefore impossible, because it is directly related to his relationship with Hanna. Hanna is the “basis” for his adult life and its evolution.

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