"She had stolen a book. Someone had seen her. The book thief reacted. Appropriately" (Zusak 129). The Book Thief is an extraordinary narrative by Mark Zusak. The book is set in Germany before and during WWII. The book is told by death's point of view. Death follows Liesel around throughout the book. During the book Liesel is known as a book thief. She steals books from people and places. The stealing of these books helps her build relationships with others and saves her life in the end. In The Book Thief, Mark Zusak uses the symbol of books to show Ilsa Hermann, Max, and Liesel's relationship with others.
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Ilsa Hermann builds a relationship with Liesel through books. Many times throughout the book Liesel sneaks into Ilsa's library and steals books from her. Rudy was right there with her to help her steal the books. Ilsa started to her hear but she just ignored it. "When you came back, I should have been angry, but I wasn't. I could hear you the last time, but I decided to leave you alone. You only ever take one book, and it will take a thousand visits till all of them are gone." (Zusak 369) After they took the dictionary leaning on the window, they found a note that had this in the book. This note was written by Ilsa explaining that she doesn't mind Liesel sneaking in and stealing the books. Ilsa also explains that she wouldn't mind Liesel entering her library in a more civilized manner by knocking on the door. Around Christmas time, Ilsa left cookies in the library for Liesel to take when she took another book. In the end of the book when all of Liesel's family members were killed, Ilsa and her husband took her in. "Ilsa sat with her in the back. The girl let her hold her hand on top of the accordion case, which sat between them" (Zusak 545). This was when Liesel was heading over to Ilsa's house after she was picked up from the police station by Ilsa. Along with Ilsa, Max also built a relationship with others through books.
Max and Liesel had a lot in common. Something that they both enjoyed was reading books. "'Liesel's actually a good reader herself.' Max lowered the book. 'And she has more is common with you than you might think'" (Zusak 218). Max was reading Mein Kamph and Hans told Max that Liesel liked reading. From this point on they started reading together and socializing. When Liesel and Hans were reading during the night after Liesel woke up after her bad dream, they heard Max waking up. Liesel then went into the living room and talked to Max about their dreams. After she talked to Max she felt better about coping with her dreams. "The only thing that changed was that Liesel told her papa that she should be old enough bow to cope on her own with the dreams" (Zusak 220). If Liesel wasn't reading with papa when she heard Max waking up she probably wouldn't have said that to Hans. Max felt bad on Liesel's birthday that he didn't get her anything so he wrote a book for her. Max ripped the pages out of Mein Kamph and painted over them. "A late birthday gift. Look in the morning. Goodnight" (Zusak 237). Max spent days writing this book for Liesel. He finally finished it and delivered it to her in the middle of the night one night. "All my life, I've been scared of men standing over me. I suppose my first stand over man was my father, but he vanished before I could remember him" (Zusak 224). These are the first words of Max's book. His book is about his life's story. His story also relates to Liesel and her life. Max's book Mein Kamph is the complete opposite of what he believes but it helps save his life. He used the book in order to help prevent him from going to a concentration camp. "The title, over and over again as the train prattles on, from one German town to the next. Mein Kamph. Of all the things to save him" (Zusak 160). When the German soldiers saw that max was reading Mein Kamph they left him alone and did not ask for his papers. Liesel built a good relationship with max through books but she also built relationships with others.
Papa was one of the most important people in Liesel's life. Papa was the one who helped her start reading. When she woke up in the middle of the night from her night mare, they read together in order to help Liesel distract her from her pain. "In the left corner of an upturned piece of sandpaper, he drew a square of perhaps an inch and shoved a capital A inside it. In the other corner, he places a lowercase one, so far so good" (Zusak 67). Papa was seeing if Liesel knew her alphabet. Liesel liked papa teaching her the letters better than her kindergarten teacher. "It was nice to watch Papa's hand as he wrote the words and slowly constructed the primitive sketches" (Zusak 67). Papa always stayed up with Liesel in order to teach her how to read and write. Even though papa only got through fourth grade, he was still determined to teach Liesel how to read and write. With the reading of the books each night Liesel and papa build a sense of trust with one another. Liesel knows that papa is going to be there when she wakes up and she trusts him to take care of her. Liesel uses what papa taught her to help build a relationship with the community.
While the sirens were going off during air raids, the whole Himmel Street was in the bomb shelter. Liesel helped comfort them all by simply reading to them. She started just reading to herself and over time the whole bomb shelter was quiet and listening to Liesel read The Whistler. "On their way up the stairs, the children rushed by her, but many of the older people-even Frau Holtzapfel, even Pfiffikus (how appropriate, considering the title she read from)-thanked the girl for the distraction (Zusak 382). Everyone was distracted and forgot what was happening outside when Liesel was reading to them. Frau Holtzapfel, a poor old, crabby woman, enjoyed her reading so much that she wanted Liesel to come over to her house and read to her. "'No, not you.' She dismisses Rosa with a shrug of the voice and focused now on Liesel. 'You'" (Zusak 386). Frau came to Liesel's house and made a deal with Rosa. The deal was Liesel would read to Frau and then Frau would stop spitting on their door and give them her coffee ration. Liesel and Frau became friends through Liesel reading to Frau. Closer to the end, Liesel put her own life in danger in order to try to save Frau from another bomb raid. Frau would not get out of her house because she was ready to die since she just lost both of her sons in six months. Liesel went into her house and talked to her and got her to the bomb shelter. This shows that even though Frau was a mean old woman, Liesel still cared about her enough to put her own life in danger. Throughout The Book Thief many relationships were built through the use of books.
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The symbol of books in The Book Thief helps represent Ilsa, Max, and Liesel's relationships with others. Throughout the book, Liesel's interest in books helped her with relationships and saved her life in the end. If Ilsa didn't ask Liesel to write a book for her, then Liesel would have been dead like all the other people on Himmel Street. She was in the basement where Max spent all of his time writing a book when the bombs were dropped. The basement could have been considered as a bomb shelter. That is how Liesel survived while everyone else died. Mark Zusak did a nice job developing his book. Even though books are just many pieces of paper put together, they mean a lot to some people, like Liesel.
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