What is the main message that the author is trying to tell us about life in The Book Thief?

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In the very challenging circumstances in which Liesel found herself, her most important accomplishment was survival. She developed impressive resilience in order to elude Death and to hope for a better future. The author provides a complex set of circumstances and shows that Liesel often had to deal with multiple,...

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In the very challenging circumstances in which Liesel found herself, her most important accomplishment was survival. She developed impressive resilience in order to elude Death and to hope for a better future. The author provides a complex set of circumstances and shows that Liesel often had to deal with multiple, often contradictory issues every day. Each reader will see Liesel’s accomplishments in a slightly different light.

To survive with any degree of mental and physical health, the young girl needed several different kinds of resources: she had to maintain a strong sense of self, trust her new “family” and friends, and develop empathy and compassion to help others. While Liesel is clearly a strong, singular heroine, the author conveys that the deepening social network in which she becomes immersed is a real source of strength. At the same time, Liesel’s growing resilience means that she must come to terms with the rapidly increasing number of injuries and deaths around her. This requires her to move quickly through grief and to place her trust in new people, as well as to prepare for the idea that she might well be next. The novel is clearly meant to be read as one girl’s personal journey, but it also offers a general statement on humanity’s ability to survive and learn from even the horrific phase that was the war and the Holocaust.

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Zusak does want to relay messages regarding death and hardship to his readers, but he also makes important messages about family, friends, and personal connections throughout the novel.  At the beginning of The Book Thief, the narrator Death gives background information on the protagonist Liesel Meminger.  Readers learn that Liesel can no longer be cared for by her parents, so she and her brother are given away to the Hubermanns.  Hans Hubermann loves the girl, but his wife Rosa treats Liesel with scorn.  However, over time, Rosa becomes affectionate towards Liesel and the family comes together.  Similarly, the Hubermanns risk their lives to hide Max because they believe that the Germans are cruel and that Max has the right to live.  So this element of personal connection is prominent in the novel and is a major message relayed by the author.

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