The Book Thief Characters

The main characters in The Book Thief are Death, Liesel Meminger, and Hans Hubermann.

  • Death is the narrator of The Book Thief.
  • Liesel Meminger, the main character of the novel, is a young girl who lives with the Hubermanns. Her father has been taken to a concentration camp for being assumed to have communist beliefs.
  • Hans Huberman becomes Liesel’s surrogate father in the absence of her own father. He teaches her to read and shows her kindness. In addition to Liesel, Hans and his wife shelter Max, a Jewish man who bonds with Liesel.


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Death plays a crucial role in this story as he is the one that narrates the events, and often casts the mood of the tale being told. It is he who leads us to the main characters, describes them, and gives an overall perspective of their lives. He also takes time to comment on his job taking souls from bodies, and during the main events of the story, is very busy, as the story takes place during World War II. He describes the color of people's souls as he escorts them away, and the color of the skies when he goes to fetch them. These colors are symbolic of the personalities of the moribund, or of the mood of the world’s events at the time of his arrival.

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Liesel Meminger
The main character of the story, Liesel is a nine-year-old girl who has been housed in the home of the Hubermanns, a German couple, because her father is taken away to concentration camps for allegedly having communist leanings. We are first introduced to her as she is riding on a train with her mother and younger brother; her younger brother dies in her arms on the train. This experience is traumatic for her, and she spends the next several years tormented with nightmares of her brother's death. She adjusts well to her new home with the Hubermanns particularly developing a special bond with Hans Hubermann, and learns to read through his patient instruction. The title of the book is named for Liesel, as she tends to steal books on a whim, or in acts of sheer curiosity about their contents. Throughout the story, Liesel demonstrates a strong capability to endure, adapt, and cope with difficult circumstances, despite her vulnerability as she is emotionally affected by all that goes on around her. She also reveals courage and integrity as she demonstrates compassion and acts of human decency toward those around her who are suffering.

Hans Hubermann
Liesel's surrogate father in the book, Hans is a kind, loving, and patient man who often puts himself in potentially very dangerous situations in order to do what he feels is right. He takes care of Liesel with affection and love, helping her each night as she wakes up from nightmares, and laboriously teaching her how to read. He earns his living through house and store painting, and on the side he enjoys playing the accordion. Throughout the book he struggles with whether he should join the Nazi party, for his and his family's safety. He does not agree with their principles but fears that if he does not become a member, he is exposing his family to harm. It is Hans's capacity for kindness and his courage in sticking to his convictions and to his word that helps Liesel to adjust to her life so well. His compassion also compels him to shelter Max, a Jewish refugee. Both of...

(The entire section contains 793 words.)

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Critical Essays