Book Analysis: The Shoulder Meminger

Submitted By JosueNunez1
Words: 2564
Pages: 11

Death offers a glimpse of what will become Liesel's second stolen book. The first book she stole was on January 13, 1939. The second: April 20, 1940. Death explains that Liesel Meminger will steal her second book, The Shoulder Shrug, from a book burning on Hitler's birthday and hints at many of the events that follow. She steals it out of anger and hatred, feelings that Liesel associates with Himmel Street, her mother, and the Führer. Death remarks that Nazi Germany was built in particular on burning: synagogues, houses, Reichstags, and books.
Death describes how Liesel's second act of thievery propels the events of the story that are yet to come, an act that is preceded still by her hunger for words. Liesel is beginning to understand that her situation — the loss of her mother and brother — is linked somehow to the Führer. Hitler is using his own words to feed and persuade the nation while burning any other words — books — that represent different, contrary ideas. Death tells us that Liesel's anger and darkness fuels her desire to steal this book — her anger toward Hitler and the loss of her family, and the darkness that she's experiencing in her life from these losses.
In late 1939 Liesel, despite having nightmares about her dead brother still, has settled into life in Molching. She loves her foster parents Hans and Rosa, her best friend is Rudy Steiner, and her reading and writing is improving. Liesel and Hans finish reading The Grave Digger's Handbook a week before Christmas. She tells Hans that her brother's name was Werner, and he says, "Yes." On Christmas, the Hubermanns' adult children Hans Junior and Trudy visit, and Liesel, not expecting to get anything at all because of the family's lack of money, receives two books: Faust the Dog and The Lighthouse, the latter written by a woman. Hans traded his precious cigarette rations with gypsies in order to get the books. Rosa is upset, so he trades for eggs the next time, which makes her happy.
Through her action with words, Liesel reveals how much she's come to trust her Papa by telling him her brother's name. When he responds, "Yes," he indicates that he already knew Werner's name, that he, too, has thought about the loss of this other child, thus sharing in this loss with Liesel. This chapter again highlights the relationship between Rosa and Hans, how Rosa can be gruff but Hans can easily win her over. The chapter also alludes to other moments in Hans's life when cigarettes have proven quite helpful.
Rosa loses a laundry customer because the war has forced him to cut back. Rosa forces Liesel to pick up and deliver the laundry, because she believes her customers will feel sorry for the girl and won't discontinue the service. One customer, the mayor's wife Frau Hermann, never speaks. Liesel continues to work on her reading and writing. In school, she practices writing letters and receives an assignment to write a letter to a classmate and decides instead to write to her birth mother. Hans is somewhat disturbed by this and suggests Frau Heinrich from the foster care office can send the letter. She overhears Hans and Rosa whispering about this, wondering themselves where Liesel's mother is. (Rosa asking rhetorically, "Who knows where she is? Who knows what they've done to her?"). Liesel wants to know who "they" are.
The money trouble that begins here for the Hubermanns foreshadows the greater struggles to come, as well as the struggles that many of their neighbors will face. In addition, Liesel is realizing that an outside force is responsible for the loss of her mother and brother — this mysterious "they" that she hasn't yet figured out.

A brief flash forward to September 1943 where Hans tells Liesel that he nearly wrote her a under her mother's name as Liesel writes in a book.
Liesel continues to write letters to her mother, but she has mailed only the