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In "The Book Thief" what is ugly and beautiful about Liesel, Rosa and Hans Hubermann,...

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tanker225 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 17, 2009 at 7:47 AM via web

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In "The Book Thief" what is ugly and beautiful about Liesel, Rosa and Hans Hubermann, Max Vandenburg, Rudy Steiner, and Mrs. Hermann?

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 17, 2009 at 12:24 PM (Answer #1)

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Liesel is a hard one, because she is the main character, and very likable, so it is difficult to pick out what is ugly about her.  She tends to be mean to Rudy, not letting him kiss her, and she does think rather mean thoughts about quite a few people, including the mayor's wife, who was very kind to her.  She is a fighter, and willing to fight when she feels it is necessary.  Liesel is beautiful in her vulnerability--she has lost her mother, she loves her adopted parents, she is a good friend, she is sincere, caring, and frightened by nightmares.  All of these things make her unique and beautiful.

Rosa's "ugliness" is more apparent--she has a dirty mouth, and does not easily express love.  She is a bit abrasive and insulting, both to Liesel and Hans.  She is beautiful in that she truly does love both of them, strives to protect and feed them, and is willing to take in a stowaway Jew in a time of war.

Hans often treats his wife with ugliness (in response to her mean treatment of him), and his evasion and wishy-washiness in regards to joining the party or not could be seen as cowardly, which is ugly.  However, he is a beautiful character because he is such a good father figure for Liesel.  He is loving, patient, enduring (he gets up every night to help her with her nightmares), teaches her to read, takes her places, and spends time with her.  He strives to do what is right in the face of war, is hurt by his son's allegiance to the Nazis, and takes in Max.  All of these things make him beautiful.

Rudy's ugliness comes in the form of pride--pride gets him into fights and trouble more than it should.  He is beautiful because he is a good friend to Liesel, he is sincere, he is funny and quirky, and has great fortitude and strength of character.  He would do anything to help someone he cares about.

Max's ugliness comes from what he was before he escaped--a street fighter fighting for money, a man who felt like a coward for not defending his family or saving them from harm.  However, he is beautiful in his humility, in his care and concern for the Hubberman family, in his kindness to Liesel, and in the fact that he finds her after the war.

Mrs. Hermann is ugly in her crass treatment of Rosa and her family.  She is stern, mean, and cold to most everyone who knows her.  However, she is beautiful in her suffering; she loses sons in the war, and her pain is a force that unites all of them in hard times. Her desire to have Liesel read to her shows a softer side, one that has seen the face of war, and is vulnerable to pain.

I hope that those thoughts help; it's an interesting book filled with dynamic characters.  Good luck!

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mandy0h | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted August 9, 2011 at 12:30 PM (Answer #2)

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Liesel’s need to steal books brings out the beauty and ugly in her. Her want to read and understand the words shows her beauty and potential, but having no guilt about stealing the books, shows the ugly and anger with in her.  When Rosa and Hans Hubermann hid the Jew, Max, it shows their beauty, love, and compassion for others, but to go behind the backs of the authorities shows the rebellion in them.   When Max Vandeburg left his family to go to safety in the home of the Hubermann’s it brought out the ugly, selfishness, and urge to live out of him. But his care and love toward Liesel and humility he showed to everyone brought the beauty, care, and humbleness that grew with in him. When Rudy Steiner wadded though the freezing river to get the book back for Liesel it showed the care and love he has for her, but also the wanting and persistence to earn a kiss from Liesel. When Mrs. Hermann fired Rosa Hubermann from doing her washings it brought out the ugly in her, but when she continued to leave the window open for Liesel it showed the love and care she has for Liesel.

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sampadgett | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted March 6, 2014 at 5:40 PM (Answer #3)

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Liesel's beauty lies in her growth and development as a character.  Her likable and "beautiful" qualities are easy to see in her eagerness to learn, her fiercely loyal nature, and her honest unprejudiced attitude about people who are different (Max).  Her ugly side lies in her tendency to not say what she feels, to hold back words that should've been spoken, and to use words also in sometimes harmful ways.  The author describes her chastisement of Mrs. Hermann as an almost physical beating, and Liesel neglects to tell Rudy and Mama how much they meant to her.

Papa's beauty lies in the his kindness, compassion, and love for Liesel.  His soul is seen symbolically through his accordion which breathes for him and soothes Liesel in her moments of distress.  Papa's ugliness is seen in his deep depression which comes from his tendency towards guilt.  His kind actions toward a Jew force Max to leave, and Papa is deeply disconcerted over Max's departure because he feels guilt at not helping him survive.  Papa even technically, puts his family at great risk and danger in ever agreeing to help Max (a fix for his guilt over Erik Vandenburg's death).

Mama's beauty is described as having a compartmental heart with shelves and shelves full of love.  The way Mama showed her love was the ugly side of her.   Mama was always quick with violence and curt language and slow with affection; however, one could say that this was Mama's way of protecting Liesel and teaching her quickly in order to keep her safe.  Mama fed Max without question, so she was selfless and giving, just in a different way than Papa.

Rudy's beauty is that he can even break Death's hear; even Death loves Rudy because throughout the book, he is so full of life.  His loyalty to Liesel and his chase of her is charming and endearing.  If Rudy had not been so prideful, he would have not won so many races during the Hitler Youth Olympics, he would've not been noticed by the Nazis, and he would've not been asked to go to their school.  Even though Alex Steiner did not let Rudy leave, Rudy's pride and arrogance are often a source of "ugliness" for him.  

Max is a beautiful character in that he learns to find friendship in an unlikely candidate - a young German girl.  His love for words and thought shape Liesel into a free thinker, and his handmade books are both special and insightful in their own ways.  Max's ugliness was his guilt over choosing to leave his family behind in order to take an opportunity to save his own life during Kristallnacht.  Max's guilt over this difficult and soul-rendering decision is with him constantly.

Mrs. Hermann, though wealthier than the Hubermanns, is also a type of "victim" of her circumstances.  She did not wish to fire Liesel's Mama, but her husband did-she follows his demands.  Her suffering is beautiful, and her passion for books is beautiful, but the suffering becomes too much of a crutch.  She becomes more of a ghost than a real woman and loses touch with humanity before Liesel snaps her out of it with her harsh and cruel words.  

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