The Book Thief: Summary and Analysis Essay

Submitted By ptcola
Words: 1757
Pages: 8

he majority of the novel takes place in the fictional town of Molching, Germany, near Munich, between 1939 and 1943. Death narrates the story of Liesel Meminger, beginning when she is nine years old and suffering from the death of her brother and separation from her mother. Liesel goes to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann at 33 Himmel Street in Molching. When Liesel arrives, she can't read and is made fun of in school. She realizes how powerless she is without words, and so Hans, a painter and accordion player, teaches her how to read during midnight lessons in the basement, reading from the book Liesel took from her brother's burial: The Grave Digger's Handbook. During Liesel's early days with the Hubermanns, she has nightmares and Hans sits with her through the night. With his gentle demeanor and his accordion playing, Hans gains Liesel's trust as she grows close to him and comes to associate his presence with safety. She becomes very good friends with Rudy Steiner, the Hubermanns' neighbor. Rudy is constantly trying to get Liesel to kiss him, but she always refuses.

For a while, Himmel Street is a happy place for Liesel. She helps Rosa collect the washing from different wealthy inhabitants of Molching. One house, in particular, catches her attention: 8 Grande Strasse, the home of the mayor and his wife, Ilsa Hermann.

The Nazi Party's presence becomes increasingly apparent in Molching. In addition to the destruction of Jewish shops and yellow stars that have already been painted on door fronts and windows, Liesel and Rudy are required to join the Band of German Girls and Hitler Youth, respectively. To celebrate the Führer's birthday, the people of Molching gather for a bonfire during which they burn enemy propaganda, including books. Liesel sees one book that survives the fire and hides it under her shirt. She's beginning to realize that Hitler is responsible for her brother's death and her mother's absence, and she hates him for it. Ilsa Hermann sees Liesel take the book and decides to share her own love of books with Liesel by inviting her into her library. To Liesel, the library is the most beautiful sight she's ever seen.

Meanwhile, Max Vandenburg, a Jew, is hiding in a storage closet in Stuttgart and receiving help from his friend Walter Kugler. Walter has been in touch with Hans and asks if Hans is willing to keep the promise he made to Max's mother after World War I. It was Erik Vandenburg, Max's father, who saved Hans's life during World War I and taught Hans to play the accordion. Hans promised Frau Vandenburg that if she ever needed something, she could contact him. Hans agrees to hide Max in his basement and sends the key to his house inside the front cover of Mein Kampf, a book written by Hitler. In an ironic twist, it is this book that holds the key to Max's life.

After Max arrives at 33 Himmel Street, Liesel is curious about the man in her basement but also somewhat afraid of him. She begins to realize that they have much in common. They both have nightmares, they both are fist-fighters, and they both have lost their families. They also share the same view of Hans Hubermann, namely that he and his accordion are sources of safety. Liesel does the best she can to bring the outside world to Max, describing the weather to him, bringing him snow, and delivering presents to the foot of his bed when he falls ill. She continues to play with Rudy and go to school, all while keeping Max a secret and listening to his stories about his past at night. Max, too, loves stories and shares these with Liesel.

Max also understands the power of words. For Liesel's birthday, he paints over the pages of Mein Kampf and makes a book for Liesel called The Standover Man. It is the story of his life, how he had to leave his family, about his journey to the Hubermanns, and about Liesel, who has become his friend and watches over him. In addition to his nightmares, Max also starts having daydreams about…