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The mood in Markus Zusak's The Book Thief

Summary:

The mood in Markus Zusak's The Book Thief is predominantly somber and reflective. Set during World War II in Nazi Germany, the narrative conveys the harsh realities of life under oppressive regimes, the horrors of war, and the constant presence of death. Despite this, moments of hope and the resilience of the human spirit also permeate the story, offering a nuanced emotional experience.

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How would you describe the mood of Markus Zusak's The Book Thief?

The introduction of the Book Thief establishes the idea that this will be a dark story since the narrator himself is Death, which obviously references his activities and his interactions with people.

However, after this opening, the book starts off as a lively, if somewhat downcast, story by laying out the experiences of the two protagonists, Liesel and Rudy. Both of their characters and their personalities are laid out, and we see many undercurrents of both happiness and unhappiness.

As the book progresses and Germany enters World War II, the story becomes far darker. The introduction of the character Max, a Jew who hides in their basement from the Nazi authorities, demonstrates both the brutality of the regime and the ability of Liesel to use books to escape from its harshness. Further on, the shortages of the war hit both Liesel and her family. It also takes her adopted father up into the Nazi apparatus itself.

The onslaught of the war, in tandem with the fact that many of the characters in the story are not outright supporters of the Nazis, makes the mood deteriorate. However, as Liesel collects more books, there are underpinnings of hope, ending with her statement that she has hated and loved the words.

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How would you describe the mood of Markus Zusak's The Book Thief?

The mood, or overall feeling of the novel, is established right from the very beginning, when the narrator introduces himself as "Death" and provides a helpful overview of his life's work:  collecting souls from the dead, none of whom normally interest him at all.  However, on one occasion, his curiousity gets the better of him when he encounters the eventful and often dangerous life of one Liesel Meminger. 

While a novel opening with a narrator named Death, set in Nazi Germany during World War II, will of necessity probably not be real heavy on the laughs, it is nonetheless the story of a survivor, and as such, the mood, while always serious, does not necessarily require a tragic ending.  There is plenty of tragedy, of course, in The Book Thief, but the novel ends with a hopeful note of optimism.  Liesel learns some important lessons about her ability to write the truth in the face of Hitler's evil propaganda machine, saying "I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right," and the reader is also able to infer that Liesel will marry one day and manage to find happiness in life despite all of the heartbreak she has witnessed.

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What is the overall mood that Markus Zusak tries to create in The Book Thief?

"I have to say that although it broke my heart, I was, and still am, glad I was there."  These words, spoken by Death, the personified narrator of The Book Thief, could very well have been written by one of the many who have come to love this novel.  Reading it can be a struggle; a smooth narrative it is not, interrupted as it is by Death, who offers commentary, asides, and interpretations as he sees fit.  However, what appears to make it so appealing to so many is that Zusak has somehow managed to take a story set in what may be the darkest hour of human history, the Holocaust, and infused it with lovely characters whose life-threatening situations don't keep them from occasionally experiencing joy and happiness in their lives.  The main character, Liesel, is nothing if not resilient, strong to her core, intelligent, capable of great courage, compassion and love. 

Perhaps the thing that makes Liesel most compelling is her love of words; the books she steals, the story Max writes for her, her own journal, written in the basement during a bombing raid which claims her parents' lives, all of these things point toward the theme that although Hitler and his flunkies used words for evil, they could not quell people like Liesel who insisted on using words for good.  Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis once wrote that "All changes in the world, for good or evil, were first brought about by words."  Liesel might have written this, as well, because this is a lesson she learns, integrates, and uses to have some effect on a terrible situation.  This courage, perhaps, is what makes her most lovable, and creates the reaction shared by many, maybe most, of this beloved book's readers, that of sadness transposed with a real triumph of human dignity and spirit.

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