Discuss the way in which the author has narrated the story moving back and forth in time. How does this impact the overall story line of The Book Thief?

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In order to understand the answer to your question, the reader must understand the narrator of the story: Death. The character of Death does not necessarily care about time; therefore, that is reflected in the way the narrator tells his story. Even though the story line generally follows the life...

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In order to understand the answer to your question, the reader must understand the narrator of the story: Death. The character of Death does not necessarily care about time; therefore, that is reflected in the way the narrator tells his story. Even though the story line generally follows the life of Liesel, it is the character of Death that tells the story back and forth in time, mostly by revealing statistics and facts at the beginning of each part before Death tells the details of that part. The finished work of literature, then, can be quite confusing for the reader.

A good example of this concept is Part Two of The Book Thief. Here, Death begins by giving us first what the part “features” and then some statistics. We learn elusive ideas behind Part Two, such as that Liesel will find “the joy of cigarettes” and that it will be time for “Hitler’s birthday.” We only learn later that it is cigarettes that can be traded for books and that Hitler’s birthday will be the scene of a book-burning ceremony.

Next, Death throws the reader back and forth in time through his statistics about exactly when Liesel’s books are stolen. No other details are given here. Then Death truly begins the chapter called “The Girl Made of Darkness” by telling us that “all it took was a little bit of fire.” This is a reference to the very end of the Part Two when the books are burned and Liesel steals The Shoulder Shrug.

Only then does Death go back to the chronological story. Hans continues teaching Liesel to read, gives her two books for Christmas, and forges a letter from Liesel’s mother to help her combat loneliness. Hitler’s birthday brings soldiers to the streets while Hans worries about being arrested. Liesel attends an assembly of the Hitler Youth and here witnesses books being burned. One book is left untouched. Leisel steals the book that is not burned. Still, the book is so hot that it scorches her skin.

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