What is the main message of The Book Thief?

The Book Thief's main message is that life can be meaningful even in the midst of intense suffering.

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The Book Thief contains several themes, but if one is chief among them it is that suffering and chaos do not diminish the beauty and value of life. Throughout the book, characters suffer greatly. People lose loved ones due to the war. Homes and countries are destroyed. Oppressive governments crush ordinary people and bring out the worst in human nature. And yet, the novel is steadfastly life-affirming in its outlook.

These life-affirming qualities come from the characters themselves. Liesel chooses to save books from being destroyed, even though the gesture seems small in the grand scope of the conflict. Friendships blossom, such as the unlikely bond between Liesel and Ilsa Hermann. Both Liesel and Ilsa have suffered loss: Liesel's brother died in her arms and Ilsa lost her son. However, their friendship allows both to transform their pain into empathy for fellow sufferers. The same element applies to Liesel's friendship with Max Vandenburg.

The inner strength of the characters in the face of hardship also lends to the idea of life as valuable no matter the conditions. The Hubermanns take care of Liesel out of compassion for her situation. Max continues to struggle with life even though he faces both prejudice and his own inner demons. Overall, most of the characters choose life even in the face of death and destruction, and that choice defines the book's core message.

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