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What is the theme, moral, or lesson of The Book Thief?

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kl_collins | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 13, 2013 at 6:34 PM via web

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What is the theme, moral, or lesson of The Book Thief?

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shwethak | College Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted August 14, 2013 at 8:03 AM (Answer #1)

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The Book Thief is a novel by the Australian author Markus Zusak.In the book the Death is the narrator and is set in the Nazi Germany and is the time when he is extremely busy.

The major themes in the novel-

Mortality-

Death who is the narrator keeps us focussed on mortality.Death lets us know from the very beginning that this is a tragic story.He also tells us that all the people we come to love will die some or the other day.

Love-

In the book we come across characters who are learning to love even during the times when there is hatred everywhere.There is also romantic love involved.

War-

The book is filled with war as it is set during the second world war in the Nazi Germany.Though Death doesnt like war and also its results which will keep him busy all the time with no time to relax.

Identity-

Identity is a major concern in the novel especially for the Jewish.Any wrong move will not cause damage to you but your family as well.Even the Non-Jewish characters do not want to be called as Nazis and try to forge new identities.

Criminality-

In this Nazi Germany people are made to commit crimes against humanity.The characters err all the time regardless of what the law says.Liesels stealing of books could be the best example.

Suffering-

There is suffering right from the start of the book like the cold,hunger,guilt,horror of the battlefield etc.Suffering and gulit due to the loss of loved ones is present everywhere.

Courage-

The characters show courage even during adverse situations.Their courage to resist unjust laws and practices and to publicly show theis resistance is is of great importance.

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 16, 2013 at 2:05 PM (Answer #2)

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I think one of the most important lessons, or the overall take-home message of this novel is the power of words. First, the main character ironically becomes a "book thief" before she even knows how to read. The idea of words, to her, is initially a mystery that she sets out to unlock. She is bonded to her foster father, Hans Hubermann, but the power of words, and the night reading lessons they share together.

Later, on the night of the book burning, she hears the word "communist" from the podium and things finally start to fall into place for her about what must have happened to her real parents. She is later bonded to two more characters, the Mayor's wife and Max, through books.

Consider that all of Hitler's power rested on his ability to persuade people through words. This book is not a traditional Holocaust story, however, it does tap in to this very typical Holocaust theme. Instead of revealing the predominantly negative side of the power of words, however, this book shows how this power created friendships, preserved life, and ultimately was used for good over evil. In contrast to the historical evil taking place in Europe during WW2, The Book Thiefteaches readers to appreciate freedom of expression in writing.

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