The Book Thief | Study Guide

Marcus Zusak

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The Book Thief | Part 6, Chapters 1–4 : the dream carrier | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1: Death's Diary: 1942

Death complains about the year 1942 in which humans kept him very busy. He refers to the war and the concentration camp gas chambers, expressing his own sense of being "unnerved, untied, and undone."

Chapter 2: The Snowman

For Christmas Liesel brings snow to the basement, enough to make a snowman. Liesel, Max, Hans, and even Rosa enjoy building the snowman and throwing snowballs. Unfortunately Max gets sick. Liesel worries Max will die because she brought snow into the house. Hans tells her it was something she had to do.

Chapter 3: Thirteen Presents

Max has brief moments of consciousness, and Rosa chases Liesel outside to make her stop worrying. Liesel asks Rosa to come outside and yell if he wakes so she will know what has happened. Liesel begins to bring gifts to the unconscious Max and tells him stories about her life, but he remains unconscious. Liesel continues to worry. Beginning with a damaged soccer ball, Liesel collects little gifts for Max.

Chapter 4: Fresh Air, An Old Nightmare, and What to Do with a Jewish Corpse

Liesel steals another book, The Dream Carrier, from the mayor's house. Rudy thinks she is crazy for stealing books and calls the mayor crazy for leaving the window open. But Death suggests the mayor's wife may want Liesel to get the books.

At home, Hans and Rosa worry about what to do if Max dies. But one day Rosa shows up at school and screams at Liesel about losing her hairbrush. When everyone is laughing at Liesel's scolding, Rosa whispers Max has woken up. Liesel is thankful to have Max awake again and reads to him. Over time Max recovers enough to return to the basement.

Analysis

Death begins to assert himself as a character in a new way, emphasizing he is human-like and looks human, but he is not actually human. He states, "You want to know what I truly look like ... find yourself a mirror" while he also talks of humans as a separate species. The amount of work he has to do in 1942 wears him out, and he specifies most of his work as being directed toward Jews and chimneys, Russian soldiers, and bodies on the French coast, all targets of Nazi violence.

By 1942, Jews in Germany and other countries under Nazi domination were being sent to concentration camps where they were systematically killed and their bodies burned (thus, the chimneys). The Russians were engaged in the Battle of Stalingrad, which began in July 1942. The siege of Stalingrad led to more than a million Russian deaths and more than 800,000 Nazi and Nazi allies' deaths. With Stalingrad under siege, food and supplies were limited, explaining Death's reference to "only small amounts of ammunition." The "bodies on the French coast" refers to the failed raid on the French port of Dieppe in which half of the Allied soldiers involved in the attack were killed.

Max and Liesel's relationship seems to be changing, too. In Chapter 2 the narrator notes Liesel's lack of development (no breasts or menstrual cycle yet) and follows the description with "the young man from her basement was now in her bed." There is a distinctly intimate quality in the phrasing. There is no question of a sexual relationship, but there is a definite nonsexual intimacy that continues to deepen between Liesel and Max.

The snowman also shows Max's affection for Liesel, as he is moved by her actions. Her spontaneous affection and gestures raise his spirits: "somehow you do something like walk down the basement steps with a snowman in your hands." When Max gets sick, Liesel feels responsible, but Hans insists bringing in the snow was a risk worth taking, simply to allow Max to feel human again.

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