The Book Thief: Liesel Meminger

In Markus Zusak’s, The Book Thief, Liesel Meminger is a victim of tragedy and hardship of her loved ones. Raised in an environment of war, hatred, and death during World War II, Liesel is forced to find the courage to hope for a better world. Liesel finds this hope in the books that she reads and steals in her own acts of defiance against Hitler and the Nazis. Markus Zusak uses imagery, symbolism and foreshadowing in “”Book of Fire,”” to lead readers to a theme, that hope gives people a fighting desire to survive even when death surrounds them.

In the prologue of the book, the personification of death as a narrator is a constant reminder to readers of the fate of death that lies on the characters of the story. One of the first things that Death says is, “”You are going to die”” (Zusak 3), however he later goes on to say, “”It’s the story of one of those perpetual survivors”” (Zusak 5). The tension created between death and the will of the protagonist, Liesel, to survive becomes very relevant throughout the story as she lives in a country where her actions could get her killed. To the Nazi’s, book burnings represented the destruction of the Jewish people and their ideas. Liesel’s foster father, Hans Hubermann, taught her that they needed to support Hitler on the outside in order to keep themselves safe, despite disagreeing with him and hating how they persecute the Jewish people. In a dark sky of smoke after a book burning that Liesel passes by, “”…the sky was completing its routine of darkening, but far away, over the mountain’s shoulder, there was a dull trace of light”” (Zusak 119). Here, Zusak utilizes imagery to contrast dark and light in such a terrible time period. The dark representing omniscient death which hangs over them and the light being a symbol for survivorship and hope, its placement in the order of events to occur reflects Liesel’s hope found in her books and her consequent fighting will to survive.

Through the book’s title and its story, it is evident that Liesel has a particular connection with books especially when she steals one from the snow at her brother’s funeral. As the story progresses, they become more and more of a symbol of hope and survival for her, especially shown in this passage where she see could see three untouched books within the pile of ashes, “”Whatever the reason, they were huddled among the ashes, shaken. Survivors”” (Zusak 119). The untouched books are a symbol of hope and survival to Liesel. They also foreshadow the end of the book when her city is bombed. In the midst of fire, ash, and death, Liesel lives because she was reading a book in the basement of a bomb shelter, saving her life. Living up to her name, Liesel then goes on to steal these books from the burned pile, “”She latched onto the closest of the books. It was hot, but it was also wet, burned only at the edges, but otherwise unhurt”” (Zusak 120). In her own act of resistance against Hitler and the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews, Liesel steals this book that is both a symbol of hope for her in a world of war and a representation of her at the end of the story; a survivor in the midst of a city of ash and death, yet scarred or “”burned only at the edges”” (Zusak 120), by the tragic deaths of her loved ones.

In Markus Zusak’s, The Book Thief, literary devices such as imagery, symbolism, and foreshadowing are significant in the unveiling of one of the book’s overall thematic conceptual connection between hope and survival. Despite living in a world consumed by feelings of hate, acts of war, and the tragedy of death, Liesel Meminger triumphs her seemingly unavoidable fate of death as a “”perpetual survivor”” (Zusak 5). The comfort of hope found in the books she stole that gave her the name of the Book Thief was without a doubt key to her survival as revealed by the usage of author’s craft.

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