Literature Study GuidesThe Book ThiefPart 9 Chapters 1 4 Summary

The Book Thief | Study Guide

Marcus Zusak

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The Book Thief | Part 9, Chapters 1–4 : the last human stranger | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1: The Next Temptation

On her next stealing trip Liesel finds stale Christmas cookies—and the mayor's wife—waiting for her. As she steals a book—The Last Human Stranger—she talks briefly with Frau Hermann, but Rudy is waiting. She and Rudy share the cookies.

Chapter 2: The Cardplayer

One member of the LSE crew dislikes Hans: arrogant, 24-year-old Reinhold Zucker. When the men gamble, betting with cigarettes, Zucker always brags, but Hans never does, even when he wins. In fact he gives some of the cigarettes back. Zucker can't understand why Hans would do that.

Chapter 3: The Snows of Stalingrad

In January 1943, Liesel goes to Frau Holtzapfel's to read and meets her son Michael, who lost three fingers in the Battle of Stalingrad and was sent home. He also has brought his mother the news of his brother Robert's death. Liesel still reads to Frau Holtzapfel, but it is hard to tell if anyone is listening.

Chapter 4: The Ageless Brother

Liesel starts to make peace with some of her past. She returns the cookie plate to the mayor's house. She finally allows herself to grieve for her brother. She continues to hear Rosa praying for "all of them" to come home safely, and Liesel believes those prayers brought Hans home alive.

Analysis

Liesel and the mayor's wife have to speak again at some point, and that point is now. Frau Hermann appears in a bathrobe marked by a swastika. The motif seems rather heavy handed for someone whose politics are not foremost in her life, but Frau Hermann is prone to drama and exaggeration as well as her husband's influence. Is Frau Hermann helping Liesel as her own small act of protest?

Liesel meets her first soldier when Michael Holtzapfel comes home, and the war becomes real for her in a new way. Michael may be a Nazi, but he does not seem like an enemy. He is a young man who is suffering from pain, the loss of his fingers, and more importantly, the loss of his brother.

Zusak introduces two young men in back-to-back chapters: Reinhold Zucker, Hans's antagonist on the LSE crew, and Michael Holtzapfel. When Zucker is first introduced, he is described as combing "his greasy hair with a threesome of dirty fingernails." In the next chapter readers learn Michael has lost three fingers at Stalingrad. Michael has faced Death and looks aged, whereas Zucker whines and always wants his way. One might question why Zucker is in an LSE crew; at 24 he would normally have been sent to the front. Did something prevent him from enlisting? Did he pull strings to get easier duty? Many his age are being wounded or killed in battle: friends, maybe even siblings. Zucker takes no responsibility for anything; Michael holds himself responsible for far too much.

Although a young man, Michael has shouldered many responsibilities. He watched his brother die. He breaks the news to his mother and cares for her once he is home. He informs Rosa about his brother and about her own son, Hans Junior, whom Michael has heard was in Stalingrad. Liesel also begins to face guilt and take responsibility. She returns the plate to the mayor's house and makes peace with her brother's death. At night, instead of nightmares, she envisions all the people she loves: Hans, Max, Rudy, her real mother, and her brother playing in the snow.

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