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The Book Thief | Study Guide

Marcus Zusak

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The Book Thief | Part 10, Chapters 1–4 : the book thief | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1: The End of the World (Part I)

Death tells the reader about the end of the book, either to prepare the reader or to prepare himself; he isn't sure which. Death explains Liesel survives because she was writing a book in the basement. Everyone else on Himmel Street dies, including Rosa and Hans.

Chapter 2: The Ninety-Eighth Day

Life goes well for Liesel, Hans, and Rosa, but not for everyone. Michael Holtzapfel commits suicide, and Hans tells Frau Holtzapfel, who screams and cries. Hans is the only one who stays with her as she grieves for her son.

Chapter 3: The War Maker

On the day of Michael's funeral, Liesel reads to Frau Holtzapfel. That night the Allies bomb Hamburg, and approximately 45,000 people die. But Death says Hitler was undaunted, and his demands for more people would ultimately bring Max back into Liesel's life.

Chapter 4: Way of the Words

Jews are marched through town again; this time Max is among them. He searches for Liesel as she searches for him. When she sees him, she steps out of the crowd and speaks to him. He tries to chase her away to keep her safe, but she doesn't care. She follows him and quotes The Word Shaker. He stops to listen and kisses her hand. Soldiers whip him, drag him away, and beat Liesel. She hears Rudy shouting to her, but she doesn't move. Rudy and Tommy try to get her away, but she continues to follow Max until Rudy pins her to the ground. She screams and fights to get free, but Rudy absorbs her blows and keeps her safe.

Analysis

By having Death say he is trying to brace himself for the story's end, Zusak prepares readers for the devastation Liesel will experience. Hans, Rosa, Rudy, Tommy, and many others will die. Only Liesel will survive.

Michael Holtzapfel's suicide reminds the reader that soldiers suffer too. Michael is too overcome with guilt to live after his brother's death, despite his claiming a desire to live. When Hans brings Frau Holtzapfel home after she has seen her son's body, Death reports that although it was a warm, sunny day in July, in the Holtzapfel kitchen it was snowing. For the Holtzapfels everything stopped on that snowy day in Stalingrad when Robert lost his legs, the injury that would, in a way, destroy all of them.

It is inevitable that one day Max would be in the line of Jews marching to Dachau. Like Hans, Liesel acts without thinking. She forces her way into the crowd to reach Max. She trips and "the nasty Jew" helps her up. Zusak deliberately uses Nazi propaganda language and contrasts it with Max's efforts to protect her.

For Max, Liesel is like a little sister. He talks about how she's grown and begs her to get away and be safe. When a soldier approaches, Liesel is struck by Max's expression: "She had seen him afraid, but not like this." Max is terrified she will be hurt, and he will be unable to protect her. Liesel is unafraid and uses words from The Word Shaker to give Max new strength. He knows they could kill him for touching Liesel, but he does it anyway. Liesel cannot speak to him as he is whipped, but in her mind, she promises he will not be forgotten.

Rudy must think Liesel has gone crazy, never having known about Max's existence. But he does not abandon her. He stops her from getting in even greater trouble, and he allows her to express her anger by hitting him. Maybe Rudy remembers his own rage when he couldn't save his father. Early in the book Death comments on how the two of them suited each other. Here again Rudy accepts her and loves her, no matter what seemingly crazy thing she does.

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