Liam O’DonoughueJanuary 8th 2018Mrs SkibbaENG 3U1English ISU – 5% of Final MarkThe Book ThiefSettingThe Book Thief began by the narrator introducing himself as Death. The story began on a train headed towards the fictional town of Molching, Germany in January 1939. The main characters (Liesel’s) Brother died on the train. This is where Death first noticed her.
The narrator calls her “the book thief” because at her brothers funeral she steals a copy of the grave diggers handbook. Although the town of Molching is fictional, Markus Zusak used the events that actually happened where and when the story took place, World War II. The war was a major influence in the novel, first removing Liesel’s Father, then placing her with the Hubermanns.
This story is interesting because Death is the omniscient narrator and the story is being told through the eyes of a young child. It is also interesting because it shows us both sides of the world war II story: The people who support the Nazis, and those who oppose them.Character AnalysisLiesel Meminger -The protagonist of the book. She lost her father because of his Communist actions, and soon after her brother and mother. She understands the pain of loss, and as a result she is an untrusting character. At first, when she comes to live with her new foster family, the Hubermanns, Liesel has a difficult time trusting or allowing herself to be vulnerable. But as her new friends and foster family treat her with kindness, she opens up herself to the pain and problems of others, while learning to express and transform her own pain. Liesel not only cares about specific people in her life, she cares about justice and truthfulness in general.
She feels extremely frustrated and angry at the injustices done by Hitler and the war. Liesel’s experiences with loss at the beginning of the book motivate her to channel her anger to stick up for herself as well as others as the story progresses.Hans Hubermann -Hans is a caring and compassionate man who remains this generous and kind to the end. As a father figure and teacher to Liesel, he represents humbleness and the wisdom of experience.
On the few occasions when Hans is strict or harsh with Liesel, he is not acting out of anger, he wants to protect her and teach her something. Hans initially seems quiet about his life. Yet Hans is not weak or cowardly, he is one of the few characters who directly challenges Hitler’s reign. He is guided by his conscience, and suffers greatly when he feels he has done a wrong doing. He can’t stand to see others in pain, at times this sense of empathy causes him to put himself and his family in harm’s way. But his kindness’ are rewarded at other times in the novel. By the end of the book, Hans is satisfied with his life and his fate, and accepts his death peacefully.
PlotLiesel’s brother Werner, dies and she steals the gravedigger’s handbook.Liesel grows to trust her new foster father Hans as he teaches her to roll his cigarettes.Liesel becomes close with a neighborhood boy named Rudy, Rudy soon falls in love with her, and constantly bothers her to kiss him.When Hans discovers that Liesel cannot read, he starts to teach her the alphabet and words that start with those letters, and at the same time reading through the gravedigger’s handbook.To celebrate Hitler’s birthday, the Nazis burned a pile of books, this is where Liesel stole another book.One day when Liesel was delivering laundry for Rosa, she was invited in to the mayor’s study by his wife, Ilsa Hermann’s, and she is blown away by all the books, so Ilsa lets her read in the study.A Jew named Max was hiding in a closet until a friend brought him False identity papers and a map hidden in Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. He takes the train to Hans Hubermanns house, where he paints the pages white in the autobiography to draw a story for Liesel.
Frau Hermann tells Liesel that they can’t afford to send out the laundry anymore, Liesel is furious because the family is struggling and they have so much.Later, Max becomes sick and goes into a coma, Rosa and Hans discus how they will dispose of the body. A few months later he recovers. Nazi soldiers come to inspect the Hubermanns basement to see if it would be a good bomb shelter, they didn’t find Max.
Hans accidentally draws attention to himself by giving bread to one of the struggling Jewish prisoners, forcing him to get rid of Max so he doesn’t get caught. Hans waits for soldiers to take him away but none do, instead they try and recruit Rudy to a school for Nazi Leaders, Rudy’s father refuses and later he and Hans are drafted into the German Army.Rudy and Liesel go to the next Jewish prisoner parade and scatter bread among the people, Rosa gives the book Max made for her called “The Work Shaker”, which is a story about their friendship and promises they will be together again someday.Hans breaks his leg in a bus crash and is sent home to heal.
After an air raid, they find an Allied pilot that has crashed. They have arrived just in time to see him die. When this happens, Death sees the book thief for the second time.The mayor’s wife gives Liesel a blank notebook so she can start writing her own story. One night when Liesel is working on her book in the basement, the neighborhood is bombed. Hans, Rosa and Rudy are killed.
When the rescue workers pull Liesel out if the rubble she finds Rudy’s corps and gives him the kiss he’s always wanted. When the workers take her away she leaves behind the book she has been writing. Death who has witnessed everything saves the book.After the Jews are freed from the concentration camps, Max comes to find Liesel who is now living with the mayor and his wife, they hug and cry on the floor.
Liesel moves to Australia, starts a family and lives to an old age. When Death finally comes to take her away he gives her the book that she wrote the many years ago.ThemeOne of the main themes in the novel centers around words and literature and how critical they are for communication and forging relationships. In the novel there were multiple examples of how literature brought characters closer, resulting in trusting relationships.
For example when Hans and Liesel where practicing her reading, this helped Liesel to grow more trusting of him and initiate their bonds of friendship. Later in the novel, Liesel’s description of the outside to Max, help to further strengthen their bond between them by showing him the outside world through her eyes. Their friendship lead to one of the most significant relationships in this book. The greatest thing Max said to Liesel was from the book he wrote for her, “The Word Shaker”. Max stated that words are the most powerful force there is. As Hitler uses words to take over the world rather than money or guns, Liesel later uses words to calm her neighbors during and air raid by reading out of her book. Hitler uses words to destroy peace and create chaos, and Liesel uses words to create peace and dissipate chaos.
This theme of communication and relationships, relates to our society today. For example President Trump and Dictator Kim Jong Un have a very messy relationship because of words over social media, specifically twitter. In this case, a choice of more carefully thought out and diplomatic word choice between nations and races could stop a situation from approaching a tipping point and spinning out of control, ending in disaster.EvaluationI thoroughly enjoyed how Death was the omniscient narrator of the novel and how he foreshadowed the death and some parts of the plot as if he had already experienced it and was retelling the story. In my opinion I think this story is written extremely well, the sentences flowed together and each event helped explain and build up to the climax. This book held my interest very well, as I don’t usually like reading because I think it’s quite boring.
The descriptive imagery in this book helped me visualize the circumstances the characters were experiencing. There was so much of it and it was done extremely well and clear, it helped me get through it. I enjoyed the ending of this book, because even though we witnessed many atrocities throughout it, the author still gave us a happy ending for our protagonists by reuniting Liesel and Max.
I would not change anything in this book, as it opened my eyes to a time in history where the persecution of ethnic people groups was promoted and encouraged. This book gave me a better perspective of how the Jews and their sympathizers were treated by the Nazis. The Book Thief was an excellent read for this non recreational reader. I would recommend it to a friend. The author’s writing style and colorful representation (literally and figuratively) of World War II as well as the plot events occurring within the book, would spike interest in any young reader.