Discussion Topic

Max and Liesel's friendship and its significance in The Book Thief

Summary:

Max and Liesel's friendship in The Book Thief is significant as it highlights themes of human connection and resilience. Their bond helps them cope with the horrors of Nazi Germany, offering mutual support and understanding. Liesel's sharing of words and stories with Max symbolizes hope and the power of friendship in overcoming adversity.

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What commonalities make Max and Liesel ideal friends in The Book Thief?

The characters of Max and Liesel have much in common that makes them well-suited, even ideal, friends. Most obviously, both characters are taken in by the Hubermann family, Hans and Rosa. Both characters have conflicted relationships with the Hubermanns. Both children are dependent on the kindness and charity of the Hubermanns for their very life, which leads both Max and Liesel to struggle with feelings of resentment, guilt, and gratitude. Specifically, Max struggles with guilt that he constantly puts this kind family in danger of Nazi intervention because of his presence hiding in their basement. In a deeper way, both characters have experienced and are shaped by their experiences with familial loss. Max lost his father, and Liesel lost her brother. As readers, we see how both characters struggle with the guilt of living while others die, and they are able to find consolation in each other. In a related way, throughout the novel, both Max and Liesel develop as characters through the themes of power and powerlessness. Liesel feels powerless in her situation, and ultimately words and reading become a way that she finds agency in a world that is out of her control (for example, by stealing books from the Hermanns). Max also struggles with feeling powerless as he hides in the basement, yet he develops his fighting spirit through surviving illness and emotional loss. In these ways, both characters are ideally suited to support one another and become friends.

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In The Book Thief, how does Max's life give Liesel purpose and when do they become friends?

The lives of Liesel and Max are similar in that both have been traumatized by loss by the time they meet. Those losses have made them wary, but they understand that they cannot survive on their own. Another similarity in their experience is that they have both found sanctuary through the Hubermanns taking them in. Their anxieties give them nightmares. Although everyone could be equally likely to die during a war, within the novel these characters receive special scrutiny from Death as a character.

Liesel is female and younger than Max. Her youth inhibits her understanding of the politics and anti-Semitism that surrounds her, though she understands that these affect everyone. By the time they meet, she has become somewhat accustomed to living with the Hubermanns, understanding that this is now her home. Max is far more vulnerable because the Nazi regime is targeting Jews, so his fear and insecurity make him consider his hiding out in the basement as temporary. Because of his age and broader perspective, he is afflicted with survivor's guilt that has largely bypassed the younger girl.

A similarity that brings them together is a love of learning, words, and books. Also, because Liesel can go outside and Max cannot, she becomes his conduit to the outside world. As he learns to trust her, such as allowing her to cut his hair, he shares his writing. Both are creative souls, with her functioning more as the oral storyteller and him as the inscribing witness.

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In The Book Thief, how does Max's life give Liesel purpose and when do they become friends?

Max Vandenburg and Liesel Meminger are characters in The Book Thief, a novel written by Markus Zusak. Max and Liesel have many similarities that help nurture their friendship.

Both Max and Liesel had family members taken away from them as a result of World War II. Liesel's father is taken because he opposes the Nazi party, and her brother dies. Max loses his family because they are Jewish. Both Max and Liesel have nightmares and both also love to read. The most important similarity is that both Max and Liesel are taken in by the Hubermann family. If not for the Hubermanns, the two would have never met.

Of course Max and Liesel also have differences. The most obvious being that Max is a Jew while Liesel is not. At the start of the novel, Max is an older male at twenty-two years of age and Liesel is a young girl at ten.

Max and Liesel first become friends when they bond over having nightmares. The two begin a friendship that grows through their love of books. One book that shows what Max's life means to Liesel is Hitler's Mein Kampf. Max uses this book to protect his true identity. Max also uses pages of this book to write his own stories for Liesel. His stories called The Standover Man and The Word Shaker are written on pages of Hitler's novel and symbolize the fact that kindness can combat hate. To Liesel, Max's life means standing up for what is right and defending goodness.

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In The Book Thief, how does Max's life give Liesel purpose and when do they become friends?

Liesel and Max share some similarities throughout the novel The Book Thief. Liesel is an adopted girl whose parents were taken away because of their apparently communist beliefs. She loves reading and is sent to live with Hans and Rosa. Max is a Jewish refugee who is fleeing from the Nazi regime and is in very poor health, but he also has a love for books.

In the story, both of them spend time enjoying books together, and both of them are similar in that they are persecuted by the Nazis. Max eventually escapes thanks to the Hubermann's shelter. In a twist of fate, Max and Liesel, the two who share a common bond of reading and learning together, are the only members of the household who survive the entirety of the story (as far as we know—Max's life is not explored after his departure).

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In The Book Thief, how does Max's life give Liesel purpose and when do they become friends?

Both Liesel and MaX were impacted dramatically by the war--they both had families taken away, destroyed or killed as a result of it.  For Liesel, it was because her father supposedly had communist leanings; for Max, it was because he and his family were Jews.  So, they lose, entirely, their real families.  Also, they gain an adopted family through the Hubermanns.  They find shelter, refuge, comfort and security in the Hubermann household.  Liesel and Max also have guilt issues and nightmares regarding their role in or presence during the final moments of their family.  Max feels guilty for not trying to stop the SS from taking his family; Liesel feels awful for her brother's death.  Liesel and Max both love reading and books, and bond quite a bit over that.  They are both young, and survivors of the war, when everyone else that they love is killed or disappears.

Max and Liesel first form a bond over nightmares; they awake one night with nightmares about their families, and form a connection in that way.  Books then also help them to form more bonds.  Max gives Liesel someone to help, someone to be a friend to, someone to help LIVE in a war where everyone had died.  She helps him to feel like he has family again, and she feels the same way with him.  As difficulties increase, and Max must leave, he gives Liesel a reason to rebel, to hope, to wish for the war to be over.  He also gives her a reason to survive, and to write about their story.  His book to her inspires her to write down her own events, and that, in the end, is what saves her.  I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

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