Death as a narratorAs I read this book, I came to feel sorry for Death. The way it describes the tenderness with which he retrieves the souls of the dead, especially young innocents, made me view...

Death as a narrator

As I read this book, I came to feel sorry for Death. The way it describes the tenderness with which he retrieves the souls of the dead, especially young innocents, made me view Death in a different way. His overwork during the bombing was also poignant. Did anyone else feel this way? Do you think this is part of what the author intended?

Asked on by anthonda49

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lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

The book is set in a time period where death is an omnipresent concern and every day the characters are faced with the potential death of themselves, their loved ones, and the anonymous faces in  the streets.  That Death, as a character/narrator, is personally connected to the dying is reassuring and uplifting -- especially in a place like Nazi Germany, but I kind of felt like the idea made deaths in other books, movies,  and real-life, a little less awful. 

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teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I also agree that the personality of Death was intentional.  I think the voice of Death was also meant to cast a tone on setting of the story and to highlight a sense of sorrow that "nature" has for so many killed so senselessly.  I was also immediately drawn into Liesel's story because Death took notice of her--she must be pretty interesting if a being as important (and busy) as Death stopped to consider her story.

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I, too, listened to this as an audiobook on a recent trip I took.  How fascinating!  I loved the voice of Death, and like post #4, I pictured him as a sort of Sean Connery character--full of poise, distinction, and much charm.  It was a very different way to look at Death, both as a character and as an event.  It seemed much more soothing and not at all as scary as most stories portray him.

As a literature teacher, I must say that yes, the author's choice of words, voice, and personality of Death was every bit intentional.  It was too well crafted, too precise, and too detailed a picture of an almost grandfatherly character to be an accident.

clairewait's profile pic

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

Posted on

I actually listened to this book on audio CD.  The reader, essentially the voice of Death, had an absolutely fabulous, charming, deep yet soft and poignant voice - that yes - I too had a very specific visual in my head of Death as distinguished, respectable, and well, charming.

Very different from my typical picture of the Grimm Reaper.  I'm not sure the picture would have been so exact had I read the book myself, so I suppose this could actually be another plug for a previous thread about audio-books, but to answer your question, yes, I think this was probably intentional, given that so many of us interpreted it in the same way.

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Yes - Death is so often depicted as a very different character, and I think part of the success of this excellent novel is the different way that Death is portrayed. It helps us view and think of this horrific period of history in such a different way, which I think is always refreshing, especially considering the vast amount of literature based in this particular context. This is an exceptional book because it provides a new angle on this period of history and makes us as readers think differently - can't be a bad thing!

mrs-campbell's profile pic

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

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Traditionally, we think of death as this horrific, unmercifual, frightening creature in all black with his sharpened scythe come to "reap" the souls of men.  Reaping implies he gets the profit from it, takes delight in it, and that death is some sort of morbid harvest for him.  So, Zusak painting Death the way that he did, as a well-rounded, full character that sees and feels in a spectrum of color and emotion, is definitely a departure from our traditional notions of death, and it had to be purposeful.

I too enjoyed Zusak's portrayal as death, and found his emotional reaction to having to take lives, and so many of them at times, very poignant.  I feel that is a more gentle and even realistic portrayal of the sadness and tragedy that occurs with death, especially when it is on such a large scale as occurred in WWII.  It was a much more sensitive treatment of death.  I am grateful that he put so much thought into it, and gave such a unique perspective to death, which was, and still is today, such a difficult part of all of our lives.

jrr8188's profile pic

jrr8188 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Traditionally, we think of death as this horrific, unmercifual, frightening creature in all black with his sharpened scythe come to "reap" the souls of men.  Reaping implies he gets the profit from it, takes delight in it, and that death is some sort of morbid harvest for him.  So, Zusak painting Death the way that he did, as a well-rounded, full character that sees and feels in a spectrum of color and emotion, is definitely a departure from our traditional notions of death, and it had to be purposeful.

I too enjoyed Zusak's portrayal as death, and found his emotional reaction to having to take lives, and so many of them at times, very poignant.  I feel that is a more gentle and even realistic portrayal of the sadness and tragedy that occurs with death, especially when it is on such a large scale as occurred in WWII.  It was a much more sensitive treatment of death.  I am grateful that he put so much thought into it, and gave such a unique perspective to death, which was, and still is today, such a difficult part of all of our lives.

  I have several friends who could not get into this book --- until I enlightened them that Death was the narrator. 

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