In The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, why does Liesel Meminger tell Mr. Steiner that she kissed his son Rudy's dead body?

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Michael Otis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the conclusion of the novel, Liesel Meminger gives her friend Rudy Steiner, lying dead in the rubble of Himmel Street, what he never received from her in life - a kiss. During their three years of coming of age in Nazi Germany, Rudy's unrequited kiss represents sexuality repressed. Put another way, the teased kiss is an affirmation of childhood innocence, and, in a time of inhumanity, underscores Liesel's behaviour, tested but never bested: Her book-stealing isn't hardcore thievery; her Nazi youth training leaves her untouched; when food-stealing becomes a brutal act, she gives it up; she never hardens her heart to the sight of helpless Jews paraded through town. But, most importantly, Liesel never consummates a sexual relationship with Rudy, one that most certainly would have begun with a kiss. What then is the significance of the kiss planted on the lips of the corpse of Rudy Steiner? It is the consummation of innocence. In that one act, Liesel affirms that Innocence, not Inhumanity, is victorious. 

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The Book Thief

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