Friday, March 09, 2007

Hitler's Niece by Ron Hansen

Hitler's Niece
by Ron Hansen

1. Hansen does not portray Geli Raubal as a particularly naive or gullible young woman. To what degree is she responsible for her own fate?

2. Geli is simultaneously repulsed and seduced by Hitler's hypnotic hold and becomes one of the first victims of his madness. To what extent can Geli be seen as symbolic of Germany's seduction?

3. Do you think Geli is ever really in love with her uncle or do other emotions motivate the choices she makes?

4. In the details of their distasteful sexual relationship, we see the fine line Geli walks between being dominated by Hitler and dominating him. How does this sexual rondo play out in what ultimately happens to her?

5. Many historians believe that Geli committed suicide, but Hansen has chosen to end her story with a murder. Discuss both the plausibility and symbolism of this ending.

6. In order to bring his fiction to life, Hansen has had to portray Hitler's human side and show us qualities -- notably vulnerability and a certain measure of charm -- that might seem at odds with our historical memory. Has the novelist succeeded in creating a credible character or has he merely humanized the demonic by offering us a glimpse into the frailties of Adolph Hitler?