April 17, 2015
The Book Thief Essay
The Book Thief written by Mark Zusak, which is narrated by Death who is also a
character in the story. Death states,
“It’s just a small story really, about, among things: A small girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery” (Zusak 5).
Humans are capable of both great compassion and great evil based on their experiences that shape them. The author demonstrates the theme using conflicts like person versus society, “The Word Shaker” written by Max Vandenburg, and the power of words.
Person versus society conflicts in The Book Thief are implemented to characters who are
capable of great compassion and great evil. Characters who demonstrate compassion and evil are Hans Hubermann; Liesel’s stepfather and an accordionist, Max Vandenburg; the Jewish fist fighter and the secret lodger in the Hubermann’s house, Liesel Meminger; the protagonist of the story and the book thief. Hans versus the Nazis is an example of person versus society conflict, where Hans is the protagonist and the antagonist is the Nazis. One day the Nazis decided to walk the Jewish prisoners down the road and Hans decided to give a piece of bread to one of the Jews. “[…] Hans Hubermann held his hand out and presented a piece of bread […]”, stated Death (Zusak 394). Feeding Jewish prisoners on their way to Dachau is considered a crime to the Nazi guards so Hans was punished for his act. It might seem like a small thing, but to the Jewish
people who saw it as an act of true compassion. Hans’s past experience of Erik Vandenburg; a German Jew, who had volunteered Hans to stay behind writing letters and Erik had to go fight in the war. This occurred when Hans was a soldier during World War 2 and reminded him that a Jew saved his life, which he could never forget. Another example of a person versus society in The Book Thief is Max Vandenburg versus Hitler/Germany. In this conflict, Max is the protagonist and Hitler/Germany is the antagonist. This is a person versus society conflict because Max is fighting against the outside world. On the night of November 9, 1939, Nazi soldiers
stormed the streets of Germany, breaking windows and looting Jewish businesses in a nationwide attack that would be known as Kristallnacht (“the night of broken glass”). During that night Max was told by his best friend, Walter Kugler, he had to leave his home immediately to escape arrest. This is a past experience of Max which led to him leaving the Hubermann’s house because he did not want them being caught helping a Jew. This act of Max leaving the Hubermann’s house demonstrates how compassionate Max is to the Hubermann family and he does not want to experience another family get punished because of his religion which Max has already experienced with his own family. Liesel Meminger versus Hitler/Germany is an example of person versus society conflict where Liesel is the protagonist and Hitler/Germany is the antagonist. Liesel is dealing with hiding a Jew in her basement. She and the Hubermann’s know that Hitler is very strict about hiding Jews. If they are caught then the result will be punishment or persecution. As Liesel grows as a character in the story, she understands that because of Hitler she lost her parents. This past experience of Liesel leads her to say, “I hate the Fuhrer. […] I hate him” (Zusak 115). The Fuhrer has shown his great evil by persecuting Jews and any biased
The Book Thief
. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print.
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