The Book Thief | Study Guide

Marcus Zusak

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The Book Thief | Epilogue : the last color | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1: Death and Liesel

Death tells the reader that Liesel just died after a long life. She married and had children and grandchildren, but she still treasured the memories of Hans and Rosa, of Rudy, and her brother.

Chapter 2: Wood in the Afternoon

After the bombing, the mayor's wife takes Liesel into her home. Liesel is in shock; she even attends Hans and Rosa's funeral without having taken a bath, as if she doesn't want to let go of the debris of her old home. She is also some comfort to Rudy's father, who wonders what good he did by keeping Rudy out of that special camp. If he'd let Rudy go, Rudy might still be alive.

Chapter 3: Max

When the war ends, Rudy's father reopens his shop, and Liesel often stays with him. They try to locate Max with no success, but one day he finds them. Liesel and Max's reunion is joyful.

Chapter 4: The Handover Man

Death describes collecting Liesel's soul and then presenting her with her book. He describes her shock and curiosity about the book, which he has carried for many years.

Analysis

In the epilogue Death uses minimal detail to recount the facts. As Death says, "I'm tired, I'm so tired, and I will tell it as straightly as I can," but he does answer questions he knows readers will ask.

The most unexpected of these facts is that Liesel lives for many years. Death's images of her are all from her early life, which may seem to imply she died young. But she had a long life and, in the end, her soul sits up to meet Death, just as Hans's did.

Frau Hermann helps Liesel again, an act that may be surprising but is consistent with her character. Frau Hermann has protected and understood Liesel through most of the book. She isn't exactly a mother figure—it would be unfair to Rosa to suggest that—but she does become a mentor by encouraging Liesel to read, write, and not punish herself. Readers may wonder how the mayor reacts to his wife's decision, but if he opposed it, he is now silent and accepting, perhaps as his wife was until now.

Like Liesel, Alex Steiner loses his entire family. He was trying to protect Rudy, but Rudy died nonetheless. Liesel tells Mr. Steiner she kissed Rudy's dead lips on what Death describes as "a silver afternoon." The color silver is associated with Hans, because of his silver eyes. Is Hans looking down on Liesel and his friend Alex Steiner?

The title of the final chapter, "The Handover Man," echoes Max's first book, The Standover Man. Death is the handover man; he collects souls and hands them over to their unspecified next destination. He also hands over Liesel's book, which she lost decades ago.

The book ends with Liesel's soul discussing her book with Death. She asks if Death could understand it, probably referring to her inexpert storytelling. Death, however, thinks about understanding humans and concludes the story with the unexpected remark, "I am haunted by humans." Seeing the best and the worst of humans, Death can never quite figure them out.

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