Literature Study GuidesThe Book ThiefPart 3 Chapters 1 4 Summary

The Book Thief | Study Guide

Marcus Zusak

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The Book Thief | Part 3, Chapters 1–4 : meinkampf | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1: The Way Home

As Part 3 begins, Liesel and Hans are about halfway home when he discovers the stolen book. Hans seems upset or lost in thought, but he doesn't explain his thoughts to Liesel. He promises not to tell Rosa about the stolen book and asks Liesel if she will keep a secret for him someday. Later Hans goes to the Nazi Party office and trades cigarettes for a copy of Mein Kampf, Hitler's autobiography. He is not bothered to hear Nazi officials say he will not be admitted to the party. In fact he seems pleased, as if he has solved a problem.

Chapter 2: The Mayor's Library

With fear spreading throughout the town and police spreading more fear, Liesel is worried the mayor's wife will report her stealing and thus tries to avoid the mayor's house. However, Rosa forces her to go. After a few visits Frau Hermann invites Liesel inside and shows her the library. Liesel is amazed and runs her hands longingly over all the books but becomes embarrassed and leaves. Outside she realizes she didn't say thank you and returns to the house. When the mayor opens the door, Liesel stammers an awkward and unspecific thank you and leaves.

Chapter 3: Enter the Struggler

In Stuttgart, Death introduces Max, a Jew hiding in the darkness. Another man appears and gives Max some food and water, a forged identity card, and a book with a key taped inside it. Max eats only a small amount of the food, saving the rest for later. In the darkness Max whispers, "Please" to Hans Hubermann, a man he has never met.

Chapter 4: The Attributes of Summer

Death says readers now know what will be coming to the Hubermanns' house, but Liesel is unaware. She works with Hans to read The Shoulder Shrug, which she enjoys and whose protagonist is a Jew portrayed positively, and she now has opportunities to read in the mayor's library. Liesel learns some of the books there belonged to Johann Hermann, the mayor's son over whose death Frau Hermann still grieves. Outside, Liesel plays soccer with Rudy and Tommy Müller. Rudy and Liesel team up with some older kids to steal apples and get sick from eating too many.

Analysis

Liesel's theft of the book leads to something she never anticipated: more chances to read in the mayor's house. Logically the mayor would be one of the few people in town with enough money to have a library in his house, but reading there is dangerous.

Liesel senses something is wrong in the mayor's house; Frau Hermann wears her bathrobe all day, and she is described as slight and vulnerable. Even her smile gives "the appearance ... of a bruise." In Chapter 4 the reader learns one reason for her fragility: Frau Hermann's only son, Johann, was killed during World War I. A psychologist might suggest Frau Hermann is suffering from serious clinical depression, considering her son died more than 20 years ago.

Death describes her son's death: "parceled up in barbed wire, like a giant crown of thorns." The religious imagery suggests that, like Jesus, Johann Herman was an innocent who suffered and died for others' misdeeds. World War I was extremely violent, and its trench-warfare techniques led to high casualty rates. Although World War I ended 20 years earlier, its shadows still hung over the start of World War II. Many 1930s leaders, including Hitler, were World War I veterans. As the loser of World War I, Germany had to pay ruinous monetary reparations that caused financial and political turmoil in Germany, helping Hitler's political career as he railed against them. He claimed Germany had been cheated at the end of World War I, and his argument for lebensraum (living space) began with Germany taking back the territories it had lost. When Hitler began re-arming Germany and invading other countries, such as Austria, some leaders in England, France, and the United States were reluctant to start another war and so allowed Hitler to expand. By the time Germany attacked Poland in September 1939, England and France were ready to fight, but it was too late: World War II had begun.

Death mentions a "Jewish fist fighter" at the start of the book, and readers finally meet Max Vandenburg. Max hopes Hans Hubermann will help him, though at this point readers do not know why; he depends on Hans and an unnamed friend. Max has been hiding for so long that he fears every sound: the sound of his clothes is too loud, the crunch of a carrot will summon Hitler himself. He is clearly starving, yet he eats only one-third of his food. By comparison Liesel lives in luxury.

Although Liesel may be oblivious to larger events, Death, adult characters, and readers are not. People are fleeing however and to wherever they can. Many are in hiding, afraid for their lives, primarily because of politics or religion—or both. The general population lives in fear and is being indoctrinated by political propaganda. Meanwhile rationing is strict, people have little food, more businesses than not are doing poorly, and times are difficult.

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