How does Liesel struggle in The Book Thief?

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Like all of the main characters in The Book Thief, Liesel struggles in many different ways throughout the story. One main struggle she endures is her fear of losing those she loves.

At the very start of the book, she loses both her little brother and her mother, events...

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Like all of the main characters in The Book Thief, Liesel struggles in many different ways throughout the story. One main struggle she endures is her fear of losing those she loves.

At the very start of the book, she loses both her little brother and her mother, events that devastate her and continue to be a struggle for her to deal with for much of the book. Once adopted into her new home, Liesel struggles to please the Hubermanns, especially Rosa, who is uncomfortable showing the girl affection or praise. Once Max is introduced into her life, Liesel has to cope with the constant fear of losing him and whatever other dire consequences would result from his being discovered by the Nazis. Hans Hubermann, whom Liesel quickly becomes very attached to, must leave to serve in the army. And of course, at the story's tragic climax, she must endure the losses she so feared when almost all of people she cares about are killed, including her best friend Rudy.

Liesel also struggles in another way, though. Liesel struggles to stay positive despite all the fear and loss she went through. She reads books to keep herself grounded, to stay sane in an insane world by focusing on something other than her situation. She steals books to preserve what is beautiful through an ugly time. When in an underground shelter during an air raid, Liesel reads to her neighbors gathered there to keep their spirits up. When Max almost dies from a dangerous illness, she brings him little gifts, tells him stories, and refuses to leave his side. She brings optimism to her new parents, and she is a source of hope for Max. Liesel's ability to do this is due to an intense struggle to not only stay alive but to help others, if possible, to live with joy. This part of her personality is one of the most beautiful aspects of the story.

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Poor Liesel has so much to cope with at the beginning of this book. Let us remember that she witnessed the death of her brother and also her mother effectively abandoned her into the hands of complete strangers before disappearing without a trace. The major struggle that Liesel has from the beginning of her time with the Hubermann's is therefore trying to accept the fact that her mother is not coming back for her and also trying to process her brother's death. The book she stole is a visible reminder of the last time she saw both of these family members, and, as the following quote makes clear, the thought of her family causes a massive struggle with her:

Sometimes, she would whisper the word Mama and see her mother's face a hundred times in a single afternoon. But those were small miseries compared to the terror of her dreams. At those times, in the enormous mileage of sleep, she had never felt so completely alone.

So Liesel faces so many challenges, and struggles primarily with trying to make sense of her situation as effectively an orphan who is trying to cope with both the death of her brother but also her abandonment by her mother.

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