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Book Thief

By khushbuk7 Feb 23, 2014 1597 Words
Analyse how an important event at the beginning shaped outcomes in an extended written text. In the book ‘The Book Thief’, Markus Zusak the author has used the theme of colours in the prologue. The theme of colours has been used to show how Death sees colours and what these colours mean to Death in his perspective. Markus Zusak uses the techniques of imagery to show this. We also see Deaths perspective on humanity, how he dislikes humans, their behaviour, their thoughts, their actions, this is where the theme of duality of human is shown. The voice of Death is the main technique, Death’s voice is throughout the book, and this technique also collides with the theme of duality of humans. Setting is a strong technique in the book as well as it is set in 1945 during the Holocaust “where death was everywhere”.

Markus Zusak the author of ‘The Book Thief’ uses the technique of colours in the prologue, the narrator Death introduces himself in four parts and the first one is ‘Death and Chocolate’ In this part Death tells us the importance of colours and how he sees colours. Death looks at colours as a distraction from the tortured suffering survivors of the dead: “I do, however, try to enjoy every colour I see--the whole spectrum... It takes the edge off the stress. It helps me relax.” “First the colours. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try” Death tells us that he sees the colours first before seeing the dead human, he explains that he deliberately tries distract himself from the humans to the colours, its way of distracting himself because it’s in his nature, his line of work and then later he says “A colour will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away.” “The question is, what colour will everything be at that moment when I come for you? What will the sky be saying. Personally, I like a chocolate-coloured sky. Dark, dark chocolate. People say it suits me.” This tells us that Death looks at colours as a distraction from the suffering survivors of the dead: "I do, however, try to enjoy every colour I see--the whole spectrum... It takes the edge off the stress. It helps me relax." Death describes the murkiness of the colours and how they run into each other, one after another. In the second part of the prologue ‘Beside the Railway Line’ the colour it opens with is white, emphasis on the blinding snowy setting but also the death of the boy and the purity of the girl, the book thief, Liesel the perpetual survivor. We can tell this because the colour white is being used and white is pure, and “white is without a question a colour.” This was the first time death saw the book thief. Next section is ‘The Eclipse’ “Next is a signature black, to show the poles of my versatility, if you like. It was the darkest moment before the dawn.” The colour used to show, to outline Deaths job, to show his ability. This is where he saw the book thief again. And the last is ‘The Flag’ with the focal colour red, a soupy tomato red, this was the last time Death saw the book thief, during the bombing Death saw the girl kneeling in the street hold the book to her chest, Death remembers the book thief in colours, primarily in red, white and black, Death combines these colours into the Nazi flag: a black swastika in a white circle surrounded by a field of red, an implication is that Nazism was responsible for the deaths in these three episodes. Death also tells that he observes “a multitude of shades of intonations, that a single hour can consist of thousands of different colours.” Death's willingness to observe different shades in the colour spectrum indicates Death's basic uncertainty about whether the human race is totally good or totally evil, suggesting that in Death's analysis, human beings are at various times capable of being either good or bad, this is where the theme duality of humanity comes in.

Markus Zusak uses the theme of duality of humanity, how Death dislikes humans, their thought, and their actions but then he realises that not all humans are the same he tells us to “prove to me that you and your human existence, are worth it.” In the first section ‘Death and Chocolate’ we see that Death describes human’s murkiness and how they run into each other, one after another. Death describes himself as affable and then he tells us that he not nice, it’s not in his line of work to be nice. “Here is a small fact. You are going to die.” This shows us that Death is very straight forward, very frank and honest when he tells humans that they are going to die and then tells us that it is “nothing to fair.” In ‘The eclipse’ death sees a boy taking a teddy bear out of a toolbox and puts it on the pilots chest, and then a crowd appears and the pilots face appeared to be smiling, death calls this a “final dirty joke” “another human punch line.” To Death this is dehumanization because of their “dirty joke.” In the last section ‘The Flag’ Death takes the book thief’s book because it was tossed in a garbage truck and carries the stories with him to convince himself of the worth of the human existence. The book thief’s story is one of those and he want to share it, and this girls story to Death is humanity because she didn’t do a really human thing and was good. Death sees the dehumanization of the Jews in the early stages of the Holocaust. Hitler judging the Jews constantly, taking away their civil rights, and denying that they were even human. Max bitterly remarks that, as a Jew in Nazi Germany, a cold basement is the only place he deserves as he hides from discrimination. In Max's fantasies of fighting Hitler, he imagines Hitler propagandizing against him, accusing Max personally as a villain and extreme threat to the German people. Death's sarcastic narration echoes this response. And then we see humanity when Hans gives old Jew that was being sent to a concentration camp a piece of bread, Death narrates: "If nothing else, the old man would die like a human. Or at least with the thought that he was a human. Me? I'm not so sure if that's such a good thing." Death struggles to understand humanity's capacity for both good and evil. Death is stunned both by the murderous Nazis and mankind's irrational taste for war and by the few human beings who exhibit remarkable compassion and strength, like Hans and Liesel. Wondering if the human race is worth anything, Death is torn by this opposition and cannot reconcile it: "I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race, that rarely do I ever simply estimate it." Ultimately, Death tells Liesel in the last line of the novel, “I am haunted by humans." It is the ability of human beings to make different moral choices and the unpredictable decisions that haunts Death.

This novel is narrated by Death himself and is told from his point of view so this where the technique of Deaths voice comes . Death spends his time collection humans as they die, this puts him in some very interesting situations sometimes. Wars are busy times for him and he continues to say that he doesn’t understand how humans handle the disappointments of life or why they do the things they do to each other. Death struggles to understand humans and is disgusted with how they behave a lot of the time, so selfish, uncaring and mean. This is one reason why the Book Thief stands out to him so much to Death, because of the tragic experiences of her life is different from a lot of humans. In the first section Death starts with a sarcastic and bluntly dark tone in addressing the readers and describing his work, throughout the rest of the book Deaths narration is less affected and turns into ‘third person subjective”

Markus Zusak uses the technique of setting in WWII, Nazi Germany “where death was all around us at that time” Molching, Germany, more specifically on Himmel Street. Himmel which translates into Heaven and “whoever named Himmel Street certainly had a healthy sense of irony. Not that is was a living hell. It wasn’t. But it sure as hell wasn’t heaven, either”. Himmel Street is where the Hubermanns live, along with Leisel, the book thief and pretty much all of the story takes place on or around this street. Nazi Germany was used because of the terrible things happening at that time. Markus Zusak said in his interview “who better to tell the story in the book set in Nazi Germany because Death was everywhere at that time and place.” But not only bad things happened at that time and place there where moment where Death tried “to find beautiful moments in a ugly time” such as when Hans Hubermann gave a piece of bread to an old Jew, such also show his humanity.

In conclusion the author used the themes of colours, the theme of duality of humanity, the technique of Death’s voice and Setting to show us “beautiful moments in a ugly time” and good and evil in humans.

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