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The Book Thief Essay

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Thomas Araujo

December 13, 2012
The Book Thief Essay

In The Book Thief there are many references to words having power. Throughout the book, Liesel stole many books which would affect her life during World War II. She learns how to read and this allows her to survive the world of war. These books keep her away from the destruction and despair from the war. Liesel and Max, the Jewish man hiding in her basement, give each other strength through the words and stories that they exchange. There are also examples of negative ways that words hold power, such as Hitler himself. Through words he achieved to rise to power in Germany and kill millions of people. Evidently, words have some kind of power, but that power could be used for good as well as evil.
Liesel is a perfect example of how words have power in a positive way. She is an illiterate girl who becomes a book thief. “She was the book thief without words. Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.” The words from the books she stole would mature her and turn her away from the use of violence. When Liesel is taunted by her classmate Ludwig for not knowing how to read, she savagely beats him. She later comes to realize that words have far more power than violence and regrets avenging her humiliation through violence. She understands that books and words could give her more power than any gun ever could. “Once words rendered Liesel useless, but now, when she sat on the floor, she felt an innate sense of power. It happened every time she deciphered a new word or pieced together a sentence.” The words end up saving Liesel from using violence and ultimately makes her a better person. Liesel also discovers that her words have the power to cause much harm to others. For example, when she uses her words to hurt her, it brutally hurts her just as much as violence could have hurt her. “After a miscarriage pause, the mayor’s wife edged forward and picked up the book. She was battered and beaten up, and not from smiling this time. Liesel could see it on her face. Blood leaked from her nose and licked at her lips. Her eyes had blackened. Cuts had opened up and a series of wounds were rising to the surface of her skin. All from words. From
Liesel’s words.” This situation is evidence of how the power of words could ‘beat’ someone up.
The power of words is also evident in Liesel and Max’s friendship. Both of them seem to love words and acknowledge the power within words. They both don’t seem to speak much so most of their relationship develops through the words in the stories that they show each other.
Max paints over the pages of Mein Kampf to make a book for Liesel called The Standover Man.
It’s the story of his life and how he had to leave his family which led him to arrive at the
Hubbermans and start a friendship with Liesel. After that they become real close friends and become distracted from the horrible things happening outside their home. He writes another book called The Word Shaker and it’s about how Liesel’s words give him strength and the ability to destroy Hitler’s forest of hate. The book uses words very powerfully to demonstrate Liesel’s compassion towards Max and the defiance of the Nazis.
Adolf Hitler is a great example of how much power words can have in a negative manner. Hitler rose to power, not with guns or violence, but with words. “Yes, the Fuhrer decided that he would rule the world with words. ‘I will never fire a gun’, he devised, ‘I will not have to.’ His first plan of attack was to plant the words in as many areas of his homeland as possible…He watched them grow, until eventually, great forests of words had risen throughout
Germany… It was a nation of farmed thoughts.” He used persuasive speeches, propaganda, and

his book, Mein Kampf, to achieve the kind of power that most men in history could not achieve.
Hitler used this power to denounce Jews, communists, and influence of recent enemies. He made
Germany into a world power that dominated most of Europe. Throughout Hitler’s reign, he exterminated undesirables such as communists, homosexuals, the disabled, gypsies, Poles,
Soviets, and Jews. He had his own secret police that would find these undesirables and had guards to take these people to death camps where they were put to work until they were murdered. By the time the Germans realized that what he was doing was completely wrong and evil, it was too late. Through the power of words and much charisma, Hitler was able to persuade all of Germany to permit him to accomplish all the evil that he has done.
Throughout the book, it is shown that words have an extreme amount of power. Enough power to change a person and rid her of violence. Enough power to figuratively cut someone up.
Enough power to forge an unlikely friendship between two different people. Enough power to create war and kill millions.

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