In The Book Thief, how does Liesel Meminger change as a result of her experiences?

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Liesel Meminger in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak changes as a result of her experiences in several ways. The book opens with Liesel's dad being taken away because he is a suspected Communist and her brother dying. At her brother's funeral, Liesel steals a book entitled The Gravediggers Handbook. ...

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Liesel Meminger in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak changes as a result of her experiences in several ways. The book opens with Liesel's dad being taken away because he is a suspected Communist and her brother dying. At her brother's funeral, Liesel steals a book entitled The Gravediggers Handbook. Her mom leaves her with Rosa and Hans Hubermann because she (Liesel's mom) is sick and cannot care for Liesel well without her husband. Liesel learns very quickly that life is short and things can change in an instant. This experience causes Liesel to be wary of people she does not know and shows her that loving others comes with a risk of loss.

Liesel does not know how to read, so Hans begins to teach her at night. Reading in Germany at the time is not really encouraged, unless it is the work of Hitler. As Liesel learns to read, a whole new world opens up to her. Now Liesel learns more about what the Nazi party is all about and and how dangerous Adolf Hitler is to the Jewish people. Learning to read provides Liesel with a hunger to read by any means necessary, even if that means stealing books like she did at her brother's funeral. Reading opens Liesel's eyes to what is really going on in Germany.

After a while, a son of a friend of Hans Hubermann's comes to live in the basement to hide from the Nazis. His name is Max Vandenburg, and he lives with the Hubermanns for three years. During that time, Liesel comes to love Max. Max gets taken to a concentration camp. Soon after Max gets taken to a camp, a bomb explodes on Himmel Street, and many of those Liesel loves do not survive. Liesel survives because she is reading and writing a story about her own life in the basement. Reading and writing literally save her life. After losing all her loved ones, Liesel still wonders where Max is, and she continues to look for him. One day a group of Jews are being taken to Dachau on foot. Liesel scans the crowd to see if she can find Max, and she does! Liesel speaks to him and does not think twice about the repercussions. Max gets taken to Dachau, and a German soldier injures Liesel for having talked with Max.

Once the war is over, Alex Steiner continues to work in his tailor shop, and Liesel often keeps him company for a few hours each day. One day a man comes to the shop asking for Liesel. When Liesel comes out, she sees that the man is Max, cries, and hugs him. We can infer from the author that Liesel and Max get married and have three children. Liesel's experiences with love are what have changed her the most. She had a love of reading and grew to love the Hubermanns and Max. Ultimately, Liesel learns that love is worth the risk.

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Liesel learns many things throughout The Book Thief; however, we can sum them up as follows: Liesel learns to read, to understand the Nazi regime, and to love.

First, Liesel learns to read. Reading is a dangerous pastime for a German in Nazi Germany (unless he or she is reading Hitler’s own book Mein Kampf). Hans risks everything to teach Liesel to read. As she learns, Liesel realizes the importance of books and “steals” more and more. It is interesting that someone as important as the mayor’s wife also covets books and has a library full of them.

Next, Liesel learns to understand and hate the Nazi regime. The way she learns the true nature of the Nazis is hinted at in the title of the book. Liesel begins to resent being “given” a book. Eventually, she insists it must be “stolen” as a secret weapon against the Nazis. In my opinion, when Liesel steals The Shoulder Shrug from the book-burning, she participates in the ultimate act of defiance for a German child during World War II. As Liesel’s dislike grows, she begins skipping many Hitler Youth meetings. Even her growing relationship with Max, who is Jewish, can be seen as an act against Nazi Germany.

Finally, Liesel learns to love. She first learns to love Hans and Rosa (and never calls them anything other than Papa and Mama). Liesel’s love for Hans is centered around his gentleness and his effort to teach Liesel to read. Liesel’s love for Rosa is centered around her realization that “tough love” can also reflect affection. Next, Liesel learns to love her friends, such as Rudy. As a true friend, Rudy always helps Liesel steal books. It is interesting that Liesel rejects Rudy’s offer of romantic love, though, because it is through Max that Liesel learns about true love. Max and Liesel are intimately connected through their love of books and their dislike of the Nazis. Liesel begins to give Max “gifts” to show her affection (including the gift of “the cloud,” which is a piece of writing where Liesel describes a fog coming over the town). When Liesel and Max find each other again after the war, they are so glad to see each other that they laugh, hug, and “fall to the floor.” There is a definite suggestion here of romantic affection. In other words, Liesel learns to love Max.

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