The book thief is a highly acclaimed and bestseller novel by the Australian author Markus zusak. The story of the book starts with a unique narrator which is death in the novel, and it tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a young German girl who lives in the Molching with Hans. Liesel was given up by her mother to live with this family just before the beginning of the Second World War. The book thief is a detective story with Nazi German background and it presents an account of humanity, inhumanity, hope and poverty. Since the author had learnt a lot from his parents who grow up in the Germany during the Second World War, he has presented the story and incidents in a natural way.
While there are many important themes of the book, The Book Thief, the three most significant are Humanity and dehumanization, thievery and cowardliness. This paper discusses several themes of the novel and also looks at the related aspects of the story.
Humanity and dehumanization
In the time of Hitler, dehumanization in the Germany was a big issue. The author has depicted that being a Jew was like being a criminal. The life was difficult for the Jews in the Germany. Being a Jewish in the Nazi Germany was enough to invite a number of problems. Life for the Jewish people was always on the stake in the contemporary society. Hiding their Jews identity was only safe method for them to some extent. The other way was to stay inside their house. Roaming on the streets or going in the market for purchasing the necessary goods was very risky for the Jewish people. The author depicts how Nazis often used to deface the houses of the Jews. Several incidents suggest that their houses were also assaulted by the Nazis. The author has presented an account of the destitutions that the Jews used to face in the Nazi Germany. The author tells how Nazis used several tricks to know the identity of the Jews. A Jewish character, Max knows that to survive, the best way is to establish his identity as non Jews and to carry a copy of Hitler's book.
Thievery has been portrayed as one of the main themes of the novel. The main characters of the novel were also involved in the several instances of thievery. Characters were involved in crimes like stealing the books and stealing the food for them. The act of Liesel's thievery is a kind of rebellion’s act. She denies the censorship imposed by the then Nazi government. After Liesel steals the book from the house of mayor’s wife, Mayor’s daughter Ilsa helps Liesel in the process by providing access to house and make the books visible. Earlier Liesel was invited by the Ilsa to study in her library but she refused because Ilsa fired Rosa. Ilsa provided all her help to Liesel in studying the books from her library. Ilsa did not make her realize about her kind acts. The author has beautifully portrayed that what happens when the state starts to encourage its citizens to commit the crimes instead of punishing them for their wrong acts or discouraging them from committing the crimes in the society. Such a huge rate of the crime in Nazi rule in the Germany depicts the ongoing condition of the law and order in the society.
In the novel, a character Hans is criticized by his son because he had not cooperated Nazis in their mission against the Jews. Hans junior criticized his father for being coward and for having a sympathetic approach towards the Jews. The cowardliness has been seen at many places in the story of the novel. The author has portrayed the fact beautifully, that the Nazi thoughts were intruded in the minds of the common people also. The people who did not help the Nazis in the eradicating the Jews were labeled as coward. Punishment to protect and saving life of any Jew was death. People were afraid with the high degree of punishment Nazis quoted for helping Jews. Hans was also punished because once he had given a piece of bread to a Jews that was taken into custody by the Nazi soldiers. There were several people who wanted to help the Jews but they were afraid of the Nazis. They could not do anything which depicts the cowardliness. The weaker condition of the Jews caused them to suffer a lot and the cowardliness acts of the Nazis made their life miserable.
After having observed the main themes and several related aspects of the story, it is good to say that the author has beautifully portrayed the ongoing situation in the Nazi society and also the characters of the story. The novel is a luminous piece of literary work, a well acclaimed by the readers as well as critics and also have won several awards.
Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. South Yarra VIC : Pan Macmillan Australia, 2008.