What is the theme, moral, or lesson of The Book Thief?

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The main theme of The Book Thief is the power of the written word and the importance of reading in times of crisis.

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One of the most significant themes of The Book Thief is the importance and power of literacy. While words can have a negative impact on the world (such as when Max observes that Hitler used Mein Kampf to change the world for the worst), they can also inspire and liberate people. Liesel's learning to read not only opens her to a world of literature but also empowers her in a time of tyranny. Even before she is fully literate, Liesel steals books intended for burning at Nazi rallies. The book burnings are intended to silence ideas not in line with Nazi thought, and by saving these books, Liesel is rebelling against the social order in her own small way.

Another way in which literacy is powerful in The Book Thief is through the relationships it can forge between people. Liesel's learning to read bonds her with her foster father, Hans. Her desire to read bonds her with the mayor's wife, who lends her books from her library. Most powerfully, Liesel's reading The Whistler to the community when they are all gathered in the bomb shelter also shows how books can not only bring people together but give them comfort in hard times.

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There are many different ideas in the novel The Book Thief, and the themes and morals intertwine to create a very unique story. One of the prevailing themes is the idea of fate. Liesel, having witnessed Death early in the story and "caught" him in the act, is spared the fate of death until she becomes an elderly woman. Many instances occur that may be deadly, but she avoids them narrowly, showing a sense of fate and fortune in her life.

The overall moral lesson, however, is about knowledge and rebellion. Living in Nazi Germany, Liesel learns to read from her foster father, Hans. This grows into a deep love and passion for books and learning that even pushes her to steal books from Nazi book-burning events. This small act of rebellion and defiance serves to preserve a small piece of literature from the destruction caused by the Nazi regime.

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I think one of the most important lessons, or the overall take-home message of this novel is the power of words. First, the main character ironically becomes a "book thief" before she even knows how to read. The idea of words, to her, is initially a mystery that she sets out to unlock. She is bonded to her foster father, Hans Hubermann, but the power of words, and the night reading lessons they share together.

Later, on the night of the book burning, she hears the word "communist" from the podium and things finally start to fall into place for her about what must have happened to her real parents. She is later bonded to two more characters, the Mayor's wife and Max, through books.

Consider that all of Hitler's power rested on his ability to persuade people through words. This book is not a traditional Holocaust story, however, it does tap in to this very typical Holocaust theme. Instead of revealing the predominantly negative side of the power of words, however, this book shows how this power created friendships, preserved life, and ultimately was used for good over evil. In contrast to the historical evil taking place in Europe during WW2, The Book Thiefteaches readers to appreciate freedom of expression in writing.

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What is the author's message in The Book Thief ? What is he trying to get across to the reader?

Zusak posits several messages in The Book Thief, most prominently the message that humans have the capacity to be resilient and compassionate.  Throughout the novel, the characters are faced with incredible obstacles that they manage to overcome because they have developed compassionate relationships with others.  Hans Hubermann is a pinnacle of compassion and morality in the novel as he risks his and his family's lives to maintain his moral beliefs.  He believes that Max has the right to his life, and therefore, agrees to hide him in the basement.  Likewise, he offers food to one of the marching prisoners to appease the man's suffering even though Hans knows that he will be punished.  Liesel respects and loves Hans for these actions.  She also remains resilient through the novel, and skirts and alters her own sense of morality to suit the times.  She is such a strong person that even Death must stop to take note of the little girl's story. 

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What is the author's message in The Book Thief ? What is he trying to get across to the reader?

When we talk about "take home messages" as they pertain to literature, what we are talking about is themes of the novel.  This novel has several.

One is the value of literature.  Leisel learns quickly the power of knowing how to read and write - and learns late at night with her foster father, Hans.  It is as she gains these skills that Leisel develops more courage and strength as an individual.

Another theme is the power of humanity to come together in a time of crisis.  The book is set before and during WW2.  Leisel's own parents give her younger brother and her away to a foster family in order to save their lives.  The foster parents take Leisel (her brother dies) in and even show her love and worth - despite the fact that she is not related to them.  Later, they house a Jew in hiding because he is a man who saved her foster father's life in WW1.  Despite the constant threat of death, this family is one that courageously chooses humanity and life through the risk of their own death.

Another prevalent theme is the overall idea of the inevitability of death.  The book is told by Death as the narrator.  Many of the characters die throughout the book - but through this point of view - loss of life is not necessarily mourned nor is death glorified.  It is simply presented as a reality of life.  Because of this perspective, though this is largely a "war book" it is not really seen as a tragedy.

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What is the main message of The Book Thief?

The Book Thief contains several themes, but if one is chief among them it is that suffering and chaos do not diminish the beauty and value of life. Throughout the book, characters suffer greatly. People lose loved ones due to the war. Homes and countries are destroyed. Oppressive governments crush ordinary people and bring out the worst in human nature. And yet, the novel is steadfastly life-affirming in its outlook.

These life-affirming qualities come from the characters themselves. Liesel chooses to save books from being destroyed, even though the gesture seems small in the grand scope of the conflict. Friendships blossom, such as the unlikely bond between Liesel and Ilsa Hermann. Both Liesel and Ilsa have suffered loss: Liesel's brother died in her arms and Ilsa lost her son. However, their friendship allows both to transform their pain into empathy for fellow sufferers. The same element applies to Liesel's friendship with Max Vandenburg.

The inner strength of the characters in the face of hardship also lends to the idea of life as valuable no matter the conditions. The Hubermanns take care of Liesel out of compassion for her situation. Max continues to struggle with life even though he faces both prejudice and his own inner demons. Overall, most of the characters choose life even in the face of death and destruction, and that choice defines the book's core message.

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

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

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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