The Book Thief

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The Book Thief

The main characters that are present in The Book Thief and pictured below are Liesel Meminger (Top), Rudy Steiner (Middle-Left), Rosa Hubermann, or Mama (Middle-Right) Hans Hubermann, or Papa (Bottom-Left), and Max Vandenburg (Bottom-Right).

Main Characters

The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief centers around the life of Liesel Meminger as narrated by Death in Nazi Germany during the Second World War. At the start of the book, in the year 1939, Death tells of the death of Liesel's brother as he, Liesel, and Liesel's mother are travelling on a train to go to their foster home in the town of Molching, Germany (located near Munich), since Liesel's mother can not afford to care for her children any longer. After burying Liesel's brother (whose name is never mentioned in the book), Liesel finds a book in the snow, which she takes. This book, The Grave Digger's Handbook, is the first book she steals in her lifetime.

Max Vandenburg was a Jew that lived around Molching before finding Liesel's foster family. He had always wanted to be a fist-fighter and picked many fights when he was a child. He was the son of one of Papa's friends, Erik Vandenburg, while Papa was fighting World War I in France before the story began. Erik was the man that taught Papa how to play the accordion and Erik died on the front lines, while Papa was the only one of his squad that survived. When Max found Papa, he was starving and in desperate need of help. Papa and Mama illegally took him into their home, keeping him in their basement after a few days of staying in Liesel's room. Liesel gave Max some of her books and helped him to read and write in the basement, and she would also describe the outside world, because Max would almost never leave the basement and have a chance to look outside. While in the basement, Max would oftentimes envision that the basement was a fighting ring, and he was going to fight The Fuhrer (the German word for "ruthless dictator), which is in reference to Adolf Hitler. Max decides he wants to write a book for Liesel to read of his own, and writes one named The Standover Man. Later in the story, Max realizes that he has put the Hubermanns into much danger and leaves. Max leaves another book for Liesel to read, named The Word Shaker. In this book, Max writes about the Fuhrer and how his words helped him in his efforts to rule the world and make the "forests of hate" expand. Max also writes about how Liesel is a word shaker and how she has given him the power to cut down those forests of hate.

Liesel's foster father, Papa, was the greatest friend Liesel ever had. After stealing The Grave Digger's Handbook, Liesel discovers that neither he nor she knew how to read, so they learn together. Papa helped keep the stolen books a secret from Mama, he spent numerous hours in the basement with Liesel reading with her, and he was the one who trusted her when it came to keeping Max's presence in their house a secret from the rest of Molching. After he was forced to go to war, Liesel and Mama were absolutely devastated and prayed for his safety every night. They both rejoiced when Papa returned only with a broken leg, and Liesel could not look at Papa's face after Molching was bombed and Papa and Mama were killed because she did not want to accept that he was gone.

Rudy Steiner was a boy Liesel met after her arrival in Molching. He was best known for rubbing charcoal all over himself to resemble Jesse Owens and running a track as fast as he possibly could. When he sees Liesel, he throws a snowball at her, beginning a friendship that would last a long time. He would repeatedly ask Liesel for a kiss after beating her in a race and fetching books for her in hard-to-get places, but she would always decline. Liesel and Rudy would do many things together, like play soccer, steal apples, and steal from the mayor's private library. Rudy's father, Alex Steiner, is sent off to war after Rudy behaves poorly at the Hitler Youth meetings he was forced to attend. He would never see his father again. When Molching is bombed by the Allies, Rudy's entire family is killed (with the exception of Alex at war). When Liesel finds his body, she gives him the kiss he had always asked for.

"I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right." -Liesel Meminger

"It kills me sometimes, how people die." -Death

...meaning that sometimes the things some people do often have ironic consequences. In this case, Death was speaking of Reinhold Zucker, a man that hated Papa and demanded his seat when they got in a car. The car then got into an accident, and Zucker was the only one in the vehicle that died.

...meaning Liesel has realized that words can cause destruction and chaos, words can be comforting and helpful, and if words are mistreated and abused, evil is sure to come out of them.

Report by Brent Yrle


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