Literature Study GuidesThe Book ThiefPart 4 Chapters 5 8 Summary

The Book Thief | Study Guide

Marcus Zusak

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The Book Thief | Part 4, Chapters 5–8 : the standover man | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 5: Liesel's Lecture

Max has to sleep in Liesel's room because he's exhausted. Hans and Rosa keep Liesel home from school the next day. Hans explains how much danger their family will be in if Liesel tells anyone about Max. When Liesel begins to cry, Hans resists consoling her. He wants her to understand how dangerous their position is. When Liesel returns upstairs, Rosa notices she has been crying and comforts her.

Chapter 6: The Sleeper

Max sleeps for three days. Liesel watches him while he sleeps and notices he, too, has nightmares. Max wakes up to find Liesel watching him.

Chapter 7: The Swapping of Nightmares

Hans arranges a hiding place for Max in the basement, and Rosa seems gentler and less prone to swearing at Liesel. Death says Rosa "was a good woman for a crisis." Outside the house Liesel spends time with Rudy and continues to visit the mayor's house to read.

Liesel becomes better acquainted with Max. She and Hans go back to reading in the basement, and at night Max comes upstairs to get warm. Hans jokes with Max that Liesel and Max have more in common than might be expected: both like to read, and both like to fight. Liesel begins to sympathize with Max, asking him about his dreams and telling him about hers. For her birthday Liesel gets another book from Hans and Rosa. Max has nothing to give, but Liesel gives him a hug. Max decides he will find a way to give her a gift, no matter what.

Chapter 8: Pages from the Basement

Hans and Rosa keep Liesel out of the basement while Max works on her present. He cuts pages out of Mein Kampf and paints them with white paint. Then he uses the pages to create a book called The Standover Man, about Max's fear of men standing over him. He gives several examples, then describes how he felt when he woke up at the Hubermanns' with Liesel standing over him. He says he and Liesel are friends.

Early one morning Max leaves the book by Liesel's bed. She finds it when she wakes up and reads it over and over. She goes to thank him, but he is asleep. Liesel puts out a hand to wake him, but he does not wake. Instead, she falls asleep with her hand on his shoulder.

Analysis

Max influences Liesel's life in unexpected ways. He may be the first Jewish person she has known, so her thoughts about Hitler and the Nazis may change because of Max. At this point she has lost her family and is tormented; however, she is not persecuted for who she is nor is she afraid of living her daily life inside and outside the house. At first she is afraid of Max as any young girl might be of a strange man who shows up at her house, barely speaks, and collapses into sleep in her bedroom. But Hans and Rosa do not indulge her; rather they insist she get past her anxiety, and she learns she and Max can forge a bond.

A "good" Nazi child would have been taught to report her foster parents to the local government or SS (secret police) office. Of course Liesel won't. Initially she helps Max because she is told to do so. But her attitude begins to change. When she hugs him, she takes a dramatic step in a new direction. In Nazi Germany a girl would never touch, much less hug, a Jewish person. Nazi society considered Jews subhuman, criminals who were more like rats than people and were responsible for everything bad that had happened in Germany. In the streets Nazi youth could insult them, spit on them, or strike them, and never be punished. Now a young German girl hugs Max, as if he were a member of her family. No wonder he wants to give her a gift.

The story and illustrations of The Standover Man, Max's gift for Liesel, are simple but powerful. Max represents himself as a large bird because Liesel has said his hair is like feathers. There is a certain situational irony in that image, of course, because a bird can fly freely whereas Max cannot leave the house. Max's fear of people "standing over" him functions as a device that leads him to what he really wants to say: how grateful he is to have Liesel as his friend. He identifies things they have in common—train, dreams, fist—and draws pictures that represent their nightmares: Max leaving his family behind and Liesel's brother climbing up on her bed. Max's drawing of Liesel hugging him confirms he has understood the hug was her gift to him, and he finishes with a drawing of Liesel practicing her reading with words painted on the wall behind her. The words are obviously meant to represent the words Liesel paints as she is learning them, but interestingly, the word valuable appears four times on the wall, in some form, and the word daylight appears three times. Max is telling Liesel what she means to him: she is valuable, and she brings him the outside world; she is the daylight in his dark basement hideout.
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