Imagery: “First the colors. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try.” (1)
Describe: The first passage of “The Book Thief,” already leaves the reader questioning what on Earth these words could mean; however, the answer to this question isn’t Earthly at all. Death is the narrator of this story, and he is only trying to help us understand how his work is done before he allows us to actually witness his work being done.
Analyze: Throughout “The Book Thief,” Death makes numerous references to the colors right before he lifts someone’s soul out of their body. The colors are how Death views the sky when a human dies. Our narrator seems to focus his attention on these colors not only as a distraction to the dismay of taking a life (the colors are edible to Death), but also to catch a glimpse of what that particular life was like; a person’s purest form of character, which may help the reader to have a “in a nutshell” understanding of the person. This use of imagery suggests that the human soul is just the universe trying to express itself for a little while, and when the body holding such a soul is terminated, the soul will be reunited with the natural world before becoming whole again, thus, resulting in the colors that Death sees in the sky.
Point of View: “*** A REASSURING ANNOUNCEMENT *** Please, be calm, despite that previous threat. I am all bluster- I am not violent. I am not malicious. I am a result.” (6)
Describe: Before Death (the narrator) introduces us to the main character of the story, Liesel, and the death of her brother, he describes the color associated with this death: white. Then, Death continues to ramble on about why white is most certainly a color, and most importantly, why you should not argue this subject with him. Given that saying such a thing may sound threatening to the reader, Death reassures us by saying that he is not evil or vindictive, he is only a result of life.
Analyze: A story that is narrated by Death in a WWII novel offers a very unique point of view that has never been used before. Not only does this allow Death himself to make comments and philosophy on the vast amounts of dying people, but since Death focuses his attention on Liesel Meminger, a young Christian girl living in Nazi Germany, the reader is able to see the perspective opposite of what is typically used in WWII stories: Jews. Markus Zusak chose this method of storytelling to show that non-Jewish people living in Germany also suffered immensely from Hitler’s reign; as most people assume that it was only the Jewish people that had it bad in those times. This POV also conveys the theme of all people being one in such harsh times, because when people are all suffering, there is no longer seperation of religion, or origin, everyone is just trying to protect themselves against the enemy.
Setting: “*** A PHOTO OF HIMMEL STREET *** The buildings appear to be glued together, mostly small houses and apartment blocks that look nervous. There is murky snow spread out like carpet. There is concrete, empty hat-stand trees, and gray air.” (27)
Describe: Young Liesel Meminger was left by her mother to foster parents living in a poor German town called Himmel Street. As Liesel is being driven against her will towards her new home, she observes the scenery around her while awaiting a dreadful day in a dreadful place. This new place, Himmel Street, will be the birthplace of many new experiences awaiting Liesel.
Analyze: Not only does this passage offer a decent description of an area, as a good use of setting always should, but it also demonstrates a certain apprehension to a place where such apprehension is not yet specifically identified. In most WWII books, a blatantly terrifying setting is established early on in a Jewish ghetto or in a concentration camp, somewhere so horrible that the reader has to put little to no thought as to why the setting should create a level of fear in his or her heart. Those types of setting descriptions subconsciously make the rest of Germany seem heavenly. But instead, this initial description of Himmel Street makes the reader wonder why the apartment blocks “look nervous” and what negativities or conflicts will happen there.
Metaphor: “The colder he became, the more he melted.” (316)
Describe: This sentence was a reference to Max Vandenburg, a young Jewish man who was taken in by the the Hubermann family due to friendly connections with Max’s father in the past. In order to be sure that Max would not be seen by anyone of the outside, Max was to live in the Hubermann 's basement.
Analyze: Living in the basement or a poor family in the midst of a German winter can cause serious problems, both mentally and physically; Max discovered this very quickly. Repeated visions of fist fighting with Hitler, a poor diet, little interactions with other people, and spending most of his days in a freezing basement (Max was constantly cold) all contributed to Max’s overall decline of health until he became gravely ill (which is what the author represents as “melting”). By using this paradoxical metaphor, Zusak quickly summarizes the decline of Max in a simple yet thought provoking way that even begins to foreshadow future events in order to keep the reader guessing.
Symbolism: “... Max Vandenburg could feel the fists of an entire nation. One by one they climbed into the ring and beat him down, They made him bleed. They let him suffer. Millions of them- until one last time, when he gathered himself to his feet…” (254)
Describe: Every night while dwelling in the Hubermann’s basement, Max vividly imagines himself fist fighting with Hitler in an arena (occasionally accompanied by others of the Nazi Party). These “fights” typically leave Max in a weary state with strong emotions regarding what he experienced.
Analyze: These fights that Max visualize obviously symbolize his feelings towards Hitler’s reign; feelings of hatred, rebellion, and oppression. By “fist fighting” with Hitler, Max is able to express these feelings towards the establishment somewhere else other than his writing. Even though the majority of this story focuses on a Christian family in Germany, Zuzak also wanted the reader to understand the inner emotions of a Jewish person enduring Nazi Germany; and these imaginary fights that Max has offers the reader lucid insight to the inner workings of a Jew in a world that is out to get them.
Allusion: “And what trash is this girl reading? She should be reading Mein Kampf.” (105)
Describe: Hans Junior, Hans Hubermann’s son, was visiting for Hitler’s birthday (a celebrated event in Germany at the time); but with every holiday get together comes a conflict. This one had to do with the fact that Hans Junior was a Nazi, and his father’s secretly strong opposition to the Nazi Party. On the night of his arrival, Hans Junior and his father began discussing current politics at the dinner table, with Liesel reading a fictional book right beside them. Hans Junior, being a Nazi, almost enforces everyone to embrace Hitler as much as he does, including 12 year old girls who know little about such topics. So naturally, he calls Liesel out on her “trashy choice of reading” and suggests that she reads Hitler’s Mein Kampf instead.
Analyze: Markus Zusak chose to reference Mein Kampf in his book not only to give his readers a bit of history, but also to show how controlling Nazis were to even Christian people. This theme is demonstrated all throughout “The Book Thief,” a theme that tells us that it was not just the Jews who were oppressed during the holocaust. Every person is expected to love and worship Hitler and his ideology without question; there is no room for anything other than the great Fuhrer in anyone’s life.
Characterization: “Her face was severe, but it was smiling. ‘What the hell did you do with my hairbrush, you stupid Saumensch, you little thief? I’ve told you a hundred times to leave that thing alone, but do you listen? Of course not!’” (332)
Describe: Easily one of the most amusing scenes in “The Book Thief,” Liesel’s “Mama” pulls her out of class and begins to violently scream at her for the loss of a hairbrush, which Liesel is certain that she did not even touch. But after a few minutes, Mama reminds Liesel that she was to yell and cuss at Liesel if Max ever woke up from his possibly fatal illness. Realizing what her Mama had done, Liesel and Mama became ecstatic for Max and his growing health.
Analyze: From the beginning of this story, Liesel 's foster mother was portrayed as a violent, unclassy, and hostile type of woman; and that this was her personality set in stone. But after this event, Liesel has a solid take on her Mama’s soft side. This interesting character, Rosa Hubermann, shows readers that it can be the ones who hate you the most that actually care for you the most. As it turns out, shouting and swearing at Liesel was a way of showing affection according to Mrs. Hubermann; perhaps Rosa was just too fragile and caring to express her feelings toward other people in an obvious way.
Foreshadowing: *** THE THOUGHT PROCESS OF HANS HUBERMANN *** He was not well-educated or political, but if nothing else, he was a man who appreciated fairness. A Jew once saved his life and he could not forget that. he couldn’t join a party that antagonized people in such a way. Also, much like Alex Steiner, some of his customers were Jewish. Like many of the Jews believed, he didn’t think the hatred could last, and it was a conscious decision not to follow Hitler. On many levels, it was a disastrous one.” (180)
Describe: Hans Hubermann’s choice not to join the NSDAP was a very rare one, as the majority of German citizens mindlessly chose to join it. But Hans could not find it in his conscientious mind to support a group that harmed people who had helped him. Mr. Hubermann’s empathy for Jews leads to significant events further on in this story, including the sheltering of Max Vandenburg and a kind offering of food to an old Jew who was being herded like a cow to his death.
Analyze: Hans Hubermann’s feelings for the Jewish people reflect immensely on his character as one who sees people as people and judges them only on their actions, regardless of different beliefs and how society as a whole may view them. But this obvious use of foreshadowing hints at the disasters that can come with having such a kind and fair heart.
Structure: “*** THE BOOK’S MEANING ***
The last time she saw her brother.
The last time she saw her mother.” (38)
Describe: Liesel’s younger brother had died a sudden death (due to cold temperatures and starvation) on a train headed to Germany, and with no other option, was forced to watch him be lowered into a hole in a field beside the train tracks as the only method of a funeral. Liesel was heartbroken and disbelieving to the point where she began to dig away at her brother’s grave, so her mother grabbed her by the arm and lead her back towards their train. But along the way, Liesel picked up a small black book and carried with her all the way to her foster home.
Analyze: Liesel could not read at the time (she had no idea that she had snatched a grave digger’s handbook) but it was this book that had inspired her to begin her journey in literature; to read and to write. But Liesel kept this book as a last tolkien of her original family, as this passage boldly (quite literally) points out. This kind of structure, the triple asterisks around the all capital heading and the bolding of the entire passage, is used all the time in “The Book Thief” as a means to directly give information that may be important or of interest to the reader. Whenever this kind of structure is used, whatever is written within it is always worth reading.
Analysis Essay Of The Book ' The Book Thief '
Imagery: “First the colors. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try.” (1)