By Disney Suarez, Year 11 Literature
Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief, revisits the tragic Holocaust through the eyes of Death himself. The author’s depiction of Liesel Meminger, the protagonist, is encapsulated within the world of Himmel Street, along with her loving foster parents, a loyal friend, and a Jewish man. Through a personal point of view, The Book Thief’s retention in the Literature Syllabus causes readers to be aware of the values embedded in the text, and how they relate to our lives. The inclusion of the novel is triggered through the power of words, cultural values, and the use of language.
One of the most major and recurring themes of the novel is the power of words. This theme not only plays a dominant role throughout the text, but also a large contribution of the current world. In The Book Thief, words have the power to brainwash and eradicate, to find light in the midst of darkness, to unlock new perceptions, and to simply love and nurture. Adolf Hitler, the prominent antagonist of the novel, uses words as a main source to manipulate and gain followers. In his attempt to take over the world, he misuses the power of words through propaganda and Mein Kampf, as well as his own national anthem. Despite the poisonous sentences of Hitler, words are also used to comfort Liesel. Through her nightmare awakenings, Hans Hubermann, ‘a stranger to kill the aloneness,’ spends time reading to Liesel. This creates the bond between the two of them, and soon Liesel is reading on her own. As new words are exposed to Liesel, her worldview is widened and gains a new perception of things. Today the misuse of words can be seen in issues such as cyber bullying, and like Liesel and Hans, parents can read to their children for love and nurturing. I believe that what we read may also shape our world view, whether it be novels, magazines, or social networking. The Book Thief is a competent novel within the Literature Syllabus, as the power of words still apply to today’s society.
The values of culture are intensively explored throughout The Book Thief, and like the power of words, it is still alive within the world today. The novel takes place amidst the time of World War II Germany, and as we would expect, characters would adhere to the country’s culture. However, a handful of them are against the Fuhrer. Liesel, claims to hate Hitler as he is the cause of ‘the suffering of her mother’ and ‘the death of her brother.’ Jews at the time were abhorred, and when the Hubermanns hid Max Vandenburg in their basement, it would be intended as socially and legally unacceptable. ‘Anything was better than being a Jew.’ This reveals the boundless hatred of anything Jewish, embedded within the German species. Rudy Steiner, who is also reversed from Hitler, looks up to Jesse Owens, ‘the fastest man in the world.’ When Rudy paints himself black, he is castigated by his father. He tells him that he should not want to be black or Jewish because he has ‘beautiful blond hair’ and ‘safe blue eyes.’ In The Book Thief, culture plays an extensive role as it is a matter of life or death, and in today’s world, it is a vast aspect and influence to our lives. The fact that cultural values are engraved in both the