Literature Study GuidesThe Book ThiefPart 5 Chapters 1 4 Summary

The Book Thief | Study Guide

Marcus Zusak

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The Book Thief | Part 5, Chapters 1–4 : the whistler | Summary



Chapter 1: The Floating Book (Part I)

Rudy jumps into the river to retrieve a book. He asks Liesel to give him a kiss for saving it. Death pauses the story to inform the reader that Rudy "didn't deserve to die the way he did."

Chapter 2: The Gamblers (A Seven-Sided Die)

Death acknowledges he has revealed part of the ending and returns to Rudy and the book in the river.

Liesel still reads at the mayor's house when she picks up the laundry and spends a lot of time with Max: she gives him a haircut, brings him a newspaper when she can find one, and describes the weather to him since he can never go outside. Bored and lonely, though grateful for his hiding place, Max begins to spend his time exercising. When he fantasizes about boxing with Hitler, Max is winning until Hitler summons the entire nation of Germany to attack him. He describes his new dream to Liesel but tells her he defeats Hitler. Max also begins a new book that will eventually be The Word Shaker.

To save money, the mayor fires Rosa. The mayor's wife is embarrassed and tries to give Liesel a book to apologize, but Liesel is furious. She throws the book at the woman's feet and insults her, making fun of her grief over her dead son. Liesel tells Rosa they were fired because she was rude to Frau Hermann, but Rosa doesn't believe her.

Chapter 3: Rudy's Youth

This chapter focuses on Rudy's problems. Tommy Müller struggles in the Hitler Youth. His hearing is so bad he misses commands and earns the wrath of the Hitler Youth leader, Franz Deutscher. Rudy tries to explain about Tommy, but Deutscher punishes both of them. Afterward, Rudy tells Liesel about it, but he seems almost pleased about the incident. He tries, and again fails, to persuade Liesel to kiss him.

Chapter 4: The Losers

Rudy and Liesel try to rejoin the gang of thieves, but the new leader, Viktor Chemmel, is cruel and abusive. He allows Rudy and Liesel to come stealing with them but does not fairly share their take of apples. When Rudy complains, Viktor attacks him. Rudy spits blood at Viktor's feet. Viktor warns Rudy he will pay for that action.


Always fascinated by and drawn to books, Liesel begins to see the power of words as they function in the world, outside the confines and context of the page. When Max asks her to describe the weather, her language becomes almost poetic. Max writes: "It was a Monday, and they walked on a tightrope to the sun." The image suggests their joint desire to move toward something positive (the sun) even though their path is not easy (the tightrope).

If Liesel's words are poetic and descriptive with Max, they have a different power with the mayor's wife. Frau Hermann apologizes and tries to give Liesel a book, but Liesel perceives the gesture as a way to "buy her off," although there is no evidence to support the perception. She criticizes the mayor's wife, mocks her grief, throws the book back at her, and tells her to do her own washing. The narrator describes the mayor's wife as "battered and beaten up ... blood leaked from her nose ... her eyes had blackened." All that damage has come from Liesel's words.

Outside the mayor's house other battles are taking place in Molching. Franz Deutscher is the perfect Nazi boy; his last name literally means German. He contrasts with Rudy, who looks like the perfect Nazi boy but is not because he chooses not to fit in. Rudy has a sense of fairness and a tendency to protect the underdog, and Tommy is the underdog among Hitler Youth. However, Rudy's sensibilities are not shared by Deutscher or others in the group. Because the Nazis wanted to win, people like Tommy, with his disability, and Rudy, with his sense of fairness, have no place in their society. These sentiments are personified in Viktor Chemmel as well, who bullies and threatens. That there is no honor among thieves is a new concept for Rudy and Liesel, for Arthur Berg was nothing but honorable.

Max is another one who does not fit in the Nazi's world, for obvious reasons. Even in a daydream Max cannot really defeat Hitler because Hitler turns the entire world against him—there is no sense of a fair fight. By telling Liesel he wins, he may be trying to present a brighter picture, but he also may believe her presence confirms even Hitler can't turn everyone against him. Even with Max's scrappiness and refusal to cower and appease, he cannot stand alone against greater forces. His stance is representative not only of military strength but of the more pervasive power of words: a nation not indoctrinated in racist and religious propaganda would not stand by willingly. Hatred, as it is taught through words, is a powerful weapon enabling the Nazis' abuse of power.

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