The Book Thief is a novel that take audience into the life of Liesel, a young girl who lost her family and is now in a foster home. Death is our narrator and focuses on the life of Liesel and the struggles she faces. She adapts to her new life and creates new relationships with people who make her appreciate her life, despite her struggles. Liesel triumphs her struggles throughout the novel. In the novel, Markus Zusak uses many literary elements, such as motifs, themes, and characterization. Throughout the entire novel, motifs are recurring and important to the story.
The motifs that are being present are: food, darkness, and words. These three motifs are used to provide a deeper connection to the characters. Due to the time period, Liesel and Rudy had to do engage in certain activities to survive . They do not engage in these activities because they want to but because they have to, to survive. Food tends to be a very scarce item to Liesel, her family, and bestfriend Rudy.
Liesel’s Mama would make pea soup everyday for her family. Mama was a bad cook and you could definitely tell from how her family would describe it: “The soup was terrible” (Zusak, 2005, p.212). They had to eat the nasty pea soup because if they did not they would end up starving. When Rudy declares to Liesel that he is starving, he takes Liesel along to join him on his stealing adventures. Their first adventure was stealing apples, they both knew that the apples did not look and they look spoiled, but they still ate them anyway. They later threw up because they ate the apples.
(Zusak, 2005, p. 153). Even though they knew they were going to be sick, they still ate because they were hungry and needed something new to eat.
Food made Liesel and Rudy do things that they normally would not do but they had to so they could survive. Darkness plays a big role in the telling of The Book Thief. Darkness becomes present when situations are unlikely. Liesel is called The Book Thief for a reason. In the prologue, Death tells us the Liesel steals three book throughout the story.
Hitler’s birthday was her second book stealing, ” …when she snatched the book from beneath a steaming heap of ashes, Liesel was a girl made of darkness” (Zusak, 2005, p.84). Markus Zusak describes that Liesel is a girl made of darkness for a certain reason. Liesel is angry and filled with rage because she now knows that Hitler took her mother away and that he is the reason she had to start a new life.
The darkness also represents the loss of everyone she has lost in her life and also triggers why she stole the book. Liesel spent Mama’s money from work to buy stamps to send out letters to her real mom. When she told Mama, Mama beat her and Liesel was later laying on the cold and dark floor.
Papa who plays the accordian was playing it while Liesel was laying on the floor. Liesel tells the readers that while Papa was playing the accordion, his music was the color of darkness (Zusak, 2005, p. 100). When Papa would play his music it was to make Liesel happy and cheer her up, but in this particular scene nothing could cheer Liesel up. She viewed his music as the color of darkness, because not even Papa’s music could make her feel better. The color of darkness is present throughout The Book Thief , but is not used to tell the story of something happy. It usually comes into play to describe the anger or sadness portrayed by the characters. Markus Zusak makes multiple connections between words and power throughout the novel.
The connection between power and words are mostly towards Liesel. Words give Liesel the ability to accomplish her goals and they end up saving her life. In the beginning of the novel, Liesel is behind in her education, she can not read or write. At school one day, Liesel had to read in front of her class. Liesel could not read and instead recited the words of a book she stole, The Gravedigger’s Handbook. When she had finished, her teacher brought her outside so that she could receive a small beating (Zusak, 2005, p.
78). Due to the fact that she loves books but can not read, Papa teaches her, her alphabet and how to read and write. Liesel then accomplished her goal on how to read and write and now does not want to stop reading her books. Lisa Hermann was the mayor’s wife, Liesel would wash her clothes and then go into her library and look at all the books. One day Lisa Hermann arrived on Himmel Street, and went to Liesel’s house. She gave Liesel a blank book and Liesel was so excited and grateful.
She started writing in the book and named it The Book Thief. Liesel was down in the basement re-reading The Book Thief when a bomb hit Himmel Street. Liesel was confused about the bombing, ” Why was the sky red? How could it be snowing? And why did the snowflakes burn her arms” (Zusak, 2005, p.533).
Liesel did not understand the aftermath of the bombing. Everyone on Himmel Street died, except for Liesel. She was saved by The Book Thief. Words are powerful in this novel, because they allowed Liesel to accomplish her goals and ended up saving her life. If she had not been in the basement the night of the bombing, she would have died too. Liesel faced many hardships in her life.
Liesel lost her mom and brother in the beginning and then lost her family that she thought was going to be her forever family. Along with her losing her family twice , she lost her best friend. The mayor and his wife took Liesel in and raised her. Mark Zusak uses motifs to allow the readers to make a deeper connection with food, darkness, and the power of words.
By allowing the readers to form the connection, it makes the story more intriguing. It also allows the novel to develop a greater meaning of what is happening throughout the novel.