The BOOK THIEF - Wikispaces

What message does the text give us about Death? Write a
 Death is an inevitable part of life.
Death does not have to be feared.
‘Death’ regularly foreshadows the death of characters, this
reinforces that dying is an evitable part of life and will happen to
all of us: “Of course, I'm being rude. I'm spoiling the ending, not
only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it.” p. 263
The story is narrated by ‘Death’ personified. It is purposefully
shown to have humanistic characteristics.
‘Death’ as the narrator is reluctant to do its‘job’. It is sentimental
and cares for souls: “your soul will be in my arms..I will carry you
gently away” p. 4
Death sometimes comes too quickly
“the children I carried in my arms” p. 359
 Death is an
unavoidable and difficult part of life.
Devastation of war brings many deaths.
Max and Liesel have been touched by death and loss –
nightmares and guilt.
Frau Hermann’s grief following the loss of her son is
Michael Holtzapfel hangs himself after his brother dies in
 Death is often harder for those who survive.
“Death” distracts itself by the colours so that he doesn’t
have to see the survivors.
 Humans are capable of both
brutal and beautiful
‘The consequence of this is that I’m always finding
humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their
beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both .
. .’ (p522)
The novel describes Rudy Steiner: ‘In years to come he
would be a giver of bread, not a stealer – proof again of
the contradictory human being. So much good, so
much evil. Just add water.'(p 178)
Even ‘Death’ cannot comprehend how humans can be so
cruel and yet so good at the same time. He is “haunted by
humans” p584
 How
is human brutality shown?
Liesel’s parents are taken away for being communists
Liesel shows cruelty when she terrorises Ludwig and
Tommy (at the same times as Hitler invades Poland); and
in her treatment of Frau Hermann
Rudy’s and Tommy’s experiences at the Hitler youth
Rudy steals from Otto Sturm
Suffering endured by Max as a Jew in hiding.
The death marches
The atrocities committed in the war, the persecution and
deaths of millions of Jews
The horrors of war throughout the novel (including
flashbacks to WWI)
How is the beauty of Humanity shown?
Erik Vandenburg (Max’ father) saves Hans’ life
Hans and Rosa accept Liesel (and later Max) into their home,
despite their own lack of wealth and food (and the great dangers)
Walter helps Max to initially escape the concentration camps
Hans gives one of the starving Jewish camp prisoners a piece of
bread- a risky decision
Max and Liesel’s friendship, developed amidst war and suffering
Rudy’s defence of Liesel and Tommy. He leaves a teddy bear on the
chest of the American pilot who crashes his plane and copies Hans
act of leaving bread.
Hans’ patience in teaching Liesel and his selflessness through buying
her the books for Christmas
Rosa’s love for Hans (taking the accordion to bed)
Frau Hermann sharing her books with Liesel
 The novel often juxtaposes (places side by
side) these
two aspects to humanity in order to draw the
reader’s attention to this contrast or contradiction.
The dying soldier in the plane crash (brutality) is given a
teddy bear by Rudy (beauty).
The Death Marches (brutality) and the acts of kindness
shown by Hans, Rudy and Liesel (beauty).
Himmel Street is destroyed (brutality) and Liesel tells
Rosa she is beautiful (beauty)
Rosa’s filthy mouth (brutality) and unquestioning love for
her family and Max (beauty)
Max writes The Standover Man (beauty) on pages from
Mein Kampf (brutality)
Other examples?
The novel shows that ordinary people can show great
courage and;
 There are many different ways of being a hero.
It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are
flowing down their faces and they stagger on, coughing and
searching and finding” (p570)
 Hans shows compassion and courage, and rebels against Hitler
and the Nazis by hiding Max in his basement. However, Hans Jr
calls him a coward.
 He is trying to uphold his beliefs and morals in a society where
they are not tolerated and accepted: “Since 1933, 90% of
Germans showed unflinching support for Adolf Hitler. That leaves
10% who didn’t. Hans Hubermann belonged to the 10%” p. 65
 Liesel stealing books and sticking up for herself at school,
reading in the bomb shelter, bring gifts for Max.
Who else shows courage in the novel?
 Words can
give people power and knowledge, and
also take it away.
Liesel is striving for knowledge at a time when ideas are
being squashed: “she knew how powerless a person could be
without words” – (Max, The Word Shaker p. 476)
 Hitler has ruled through words: “The words. Why did they
have to exist? Without them, there wouldn't be any of this.
Without words, the Führer was nothing.” – Liesel p. 553
 ‘It was a nation of farmed thoughts…our Führer also planted
seeds to create symbols.'(p 475) - Max's story suggests that
Hitler's power lay in the words he planted
At first, Liesel finds Hitler’s words soothing, though she doesn’t
understand them. However, Liesel grows to understand how words
are used to invoke and spread feelings of hatred during the war, and
how powerful they can be (i.e. To the Nazi Party)
 Words allow humans to
Liesel develops a bond with the Mayor’s wife
Papa and Liesel read together and grow closer
Max’s books “ The Word Shaker” and “The Standover Man”
 Words can
connect with each other.
Liesel finds solace and sanity in books she has stolen.
Learning to read gives Liesel purpose: Papa, you saved me!
You taught me how to read.”
Hans was saved by Erik Vandenburg: “words and writing
actually saved his life once” p. 67
Max is saved through the delivery of “Mein Kampf” and
through writing his own story for Liesel.
Liesel lives because she is writing her story: “She was
holding desperately on to the words that had saved her life”
Words can cause damage:
Liesel screams at Frau Hermann
 "What good are the words?“’(p.553)
It is important to share your story:
Max writes his story and Liesel’s story.
 Frau Hermann gives Liesel a blank book to record her story.
 “The words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel
would hold them out like the clouds and she would wring them
out like the rain” p. 85
 Zusak himself is writing so that we know the past.
Words give comfort:
Liesel reads aloud to calm everyone as they await the bomb
raids- [find a quote and highlight.]
 Liesel reads aloud to Frau Holtzapfel.
 Liesel is comforted by reading with Papa after her nightmares
 Humans show love in
different ways
Rosa:“a woman with an iron fist”
“She did love Liesel Meminger..her way of showing it just
happened to be strange. It involved bashing her with
wooden spoon and words..” p.35
“I came and watched you and you were beautiful. God
damn it, you were so beautiful, Mama” p. 571
Hans: gains Liesel’s trust early on when she is suffering
from nightmares every night “a stranger to kill the
aloneness”. Teaches her to read; buys her books.
 Humans willingly make
sacrifices for those they
Alex Steiner
Rudy risks the freezing water to save Liesel’s book
Max leaves to save the Hubermanns
Love and friendship are the greatest gifts one person
can give another.
Hans’ love helps Liesel to rebuild her life. His friendship with
Erik Vandenberg leads him to save Max.
 Liesel and Max: Liesel watches over Max and helps him see the
good of humanity:“Often I wish this would all be over, Liesel but
then you go and do something like walk down the stairs with a
snowman in your hands” p335
This is symbolised in the objects that are given as gifts:
Hans gives Liesel books
 Max makes books for Liesel as a birthday present (The Standover
 Liesel gives weather reports and small objects every day when he
is sick in order to encourage him to fight for survival.
 Liesel finally gives Rudy the kiss he always wanted after he dies
from the bombs in Himmel Street.
Guilt often burdens those who survive when others
leave or die.
Hans feels guilt over being saved by Erik Vandenburg.
Max’ guilt for leaving his family behind:‘To live. Living was living.
The price was guilt, and shame.' (p 227)
He also feels guilty for sleeping in Liesel’s room like a guest and
moves into the basement: ‘How could be show up and ask people
to risk their lives for him? How could he be so selfish?' (p 183)
Rudy feels guilty for his father being drafted into the Nazi Party
to fight in the war
Michael Holtzapfel’s guilt at wanting to live while his brother is
Death observes: ‘I witness the ones who are left behind, crumbling
amongst the jigsaw puzzle of realization, despair and surprise.
They have punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs.' (p 5)
 War
is devastating and pointless.
 Humans’ capacity for hope is difficult to

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