The Book Thief | Study Guide

Marcus Zusak

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The Book Thief | Part 3, Chapters 5–8 : meinkampf | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 5: The Aryan Shopkeeper

Rudy and Liesel find a single pfennig on the ground and use it to buy one piece of candy from Frau Diller. They take turns licking it and experience a moment of joy together.

Chapter 6: The Struggler, Continued

Max Vandenburg, the Jewish boxer, is now on a train and carrying a copy of Mein Kampf. His friend Walter Kugler, a non-Jew, has gotten him a train ticket and provided him with the items he needs to shave and trim his hair. Now on the train Max pretends to read Mein Kampf, but he never really notices anything beyond the title, "My Struggle."

Chapter 7: Tricksters

Liesel and Rudy continue to steal food. They sabotage a boy who brings produce to the priest, and they share their illicit feast with their gang. The next time they all go stealing Rudy almost gets caught. Liesel goes back to help him, but they both would have been caught if not for the group's leader, Arthur Berg. He saves them both, but shortly thereafter he moves away.

Chapter 8: The Struggler, Concluded

Max arrives in Molching. As he walks through the darkened streets, he wonders whether he isn't being selfish by inflicting himself on other people and asking them to risk their lives for him. He arrives at the Hubermanns' house.

Analysis

Liesel has small joyous moments, which Zusak explores deeply: a single piece of candy shared with Rudy and a stolen meal with Rudy, Arthur, and the other members of the gang. Liesel's happiness is grounded in simple pleasures: she is, after all, just a child and gets a certain enjoyment from rebelliousness; or subversion: money Rosa doesn't know she has or stolen food. The importance of food emphasizes the difficulties and deprivations of Liesel's life, even during its happier moments. Food is scarce and she is often hungry, living on a diet consisting primarily of ill-tasting pea soup. Yet she is far better off than many others, including Max.

Chapters alternate between Liesel's story and Max's, bringing Max ever closer to Liesel's life, and the convergence of their paths. Friendships are important in the novel: Liesel's friendship with Rudy remains a central element throughout, and Max's friend Walter risks his life to protect Max. Friendship, too, is the reason Max is on his way to meet a man he's never seen before: Hans Hubermann.

By giving Max shaving supplies, his friend Walter provides him with a means of appearing more German. Although Zusak does not explicitly state that Max had a beard and long hair that identified him as Jewish, Max certainly has not been shaving and having regular haircuts while in hiding. With short hair and no beard Max will appear less noticeable. By saying Max walked out of the building as a German, Death implies Max previously would have looked Jewish to a Nazi. Max reminds himself he is, or at least was, German. Many German Jews felt a similar struggle: they saw themselves as Germans, not simply Jews, but to the Nazis the two were mutually exclusive.

These chapters also briefly introduce Arthur Berg, the ringleader of the little band of thieves. Like many characters in the book, Arthur is neither purely good nor purely bad. As Death says, "proof again of the contradictory human being. So much good, so much evil. Just add water." He says this of Rudy, but it could apply to Arthur as well. Arthur seems like a bad kid, a troublemaker. But he risks his life to help Rudy escape. Liesel is often confronted with people who cannot be easily identified as good or bad.

The most significant book in Part 3 is Mein Kampf (My Struggle), which Hitler wrote while in prison during the 1920s. Both an autobiography and anti-Semitic rant, it became a best seller during its author's rise to power. By 1939 every "good" German household was expected to have at least one copy. Zusak establishes Hans's subversive tendencies by showing the Hubermanns do not own a copy. In fact, Hans obtains a copy only to send to Max. It is an excellent way to conceal things, since a Jew would be unlikely to own it.

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