Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief

“The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy who loves you.”

“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”

Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is about little girl trying to survive the Holocaust, like so many other children at that time. Liesel Meminger’s story is narrated by the personification of Death. After losing her own family, Liesel is adopted and protected during WWII by Hans and Rosa Hubermann. The couple takes the additional risk of hiding a Jew in their basement named Max Vandenburg. While the bombs go off elsewhere and Hitler carries out his prosecution of the Jews, Hans teaches Liesel to read and write. She becomes so enamored with the fine art that she begins to steal the books and writes a story of her own.

“Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness.”

Liesel’s life changes because of Death. She sees it at work everywhere throughout the war. It takes her brother, it takes the town, and eventually it needs to take her. The reader seemingly becomes as enamored with words and their magic, their beauty, as Liesel does. This thematic element encompasses the freedom of thought and how important it is for the human spirit. It literally keeps individuals alive, spiritually and otherwise, in the most challenging circumstances. By the time Death greets Liesel in her old age and returns to her the manuscript that she wrote as a child, we realize with bittersweetness that it was only a very painful beginning to her story.

Work Cited

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. New York: Knopf Books, 11 September 2007.

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