How does Markus Zusak execute death's point of view (e.g. humour, personification, etc) in The Book Thief?

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In The Book Thief , Death is a presence from the very beginning and appears throughout the novel. Although Death is personified in terms of having human-like capabilities including emotions and sometimes performing human actions, the character is not physically described in human form. As the narrator, Death controls the...

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In The Book Thief, Death is a presence from the very beginning and appears throughout the novel. Although Death is personified in terms of having human-like capabilities including emotions and sometimes performing human actions, the character is not physically described in human form. As the narrator, Death controls the flow of action and the reader’s understanding of the other characters. Because so many deaths are occurring during the war, Death is constantly busy. He has visions of the human souls he takes, including each soul’s color. He is aware of distinctions in the various humans’s reactions and attitudes about whether their time has come.

Markus Zusak handles this characterization with a certain delicacy. Death is not greedy or crass. We do not see Death gloating or claiming victory over those whose lives he takes; rather, he seems to approach the necessity of death, regardless of circumstance, as a learning experience. When someone succeeds in temporarily fighting him off, that person gains his respect. Death takes an interest in some characters, such as Liesl, in part because he knows that she has met glimpsed Death at a young age through the experience of losing her brother.

The vast scale and high frequency of the deaths causes Death some concern. In this respect, the author introduces some humor. Death seems like an overburdened worker who cannot keep up with the accelerating pace, like a speeded-up assembly line. At one point, he complains about the stress, stating that distractions can keep him sane. Death then puts himself in the reader’s position, suggesting that the reader would be asking why Death would need a distraction: “why does he . . . need a vacation”? The humor is moderated by his somber reflections, noting that those who do not die, the “leftovers,” are what make the job hard for him.

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