In the novel The Book Thief, why did Markus Zusak choose to have Death narrate the story?

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teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is possible that Zusak chose a personified Death as the narrator of The Book Thief to comment on the overarching tone of the times.  Set during World War II in Germany, the novel explores the lives of characters who are in some way affected by the war.  Liesel has lost her parents, Hans is taken in by the army, and Max hides out in the Hubermann's basement.  No matter what their situation, death hovers over their every move.  The characters remain afraid that death will come for them or one of their loved ones; often the characters see others die or at least see them on their way to death (i.e. the prisoners marching to Dachau).  Because death overshadows all the events during this time, it seems appropriate that Death should narrate the story.  At the beginning of the novel, Death tells the audience that he does not become involved with the lives of individual humans and simply carries out his job.  However, he takes notice of Liesel and narrates her story.  This allows the narration to take on a somewhat omniscient role, yet one that is still characterized and sympathetic to the reader.