In The Book Thief, how does the author characterize Liesel Merminger?

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The author, Markus Zusak, characterizes Liesel Merminger as a child of nine years who has many emotions about and reactions to the novel's setting of Germany during World War II. Because the narrator (Death) presents Liesel to us when her brother dies in her arms on the train, we first meet Liesel in the midst of sadness and terror. Liesel is later plagued by nightmares of her brother’s death. Even though Liesel eventually joins the Hitler Youth (out of necessity), she continually questions the ways of the Nazis and (sometimes unknowingly) reacts against them. The Nazis are not fond of people owning lots of books; therefore, Liesel becomes intrigued by books and begins to steal them from grave sites, homes, and book-burnings. The Nazis are not fond of people reading; therefore, Liesel asks Hans to teach her to read. The Nazis are in the midst of the extermination of the Jewish people; therefore, Liesel befriends Max and the two continue their bond into the future. As a result of her experiences, Liesel proves herself to be brave, understanding, compassionate, stubborn, and thoughtful.  Liesel is such a compelling character that even Death becomes particularly interested in her plight.

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