In The Book Thief, what does the act of book thievery teach Liesel about life and death?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think one of the more interesting aspects about Liesel's book thievery is the way that it leads to her unlikely friendship with the Mayor's wife, and how this friendship leads her to discover the intense sadness of grief of the life of the Mayor's wife and how she in many ways is living as a dead person, though still alive. Throughout the novel we are given images of death from the people that literally die to the death of culture as cetain books are burnt. However, the psychological deaths of people are symbolised in the figure of the Mayor's wife. Note the following exchange:

The mayor's wife tightened. "I used to read in here, with my son. But then..."

Liesel's hand touched the air behind her. She saw a mother reading on the floor with a young boy pointing at the pictures and the words. Then she saw a war at the window. "I know."

The psychological death that the Mayor's wife has suffered is symbolised in the way that she does not read any more and she is invariably seen in a bathrobe and slippers. Liesel learns that her life has stopped, but through their relationship, the Mayor's wife shows that life can continue as she comes to care for Liesel and takes her in after the bombing that brings to a close this exciting and novel story.