Literature Study GuidesThe Book ThiefPart 9 Chapters 5 8 Summary

The Book Thief | Study Guide

Marcus Zusak

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The Book Thief | Part 9, Chapters 5–8 : the last human stranger | Summary



Chapter 5: The Accident

One day Zucker announces he wants Hans's seat in the back of the LSE truck. Hans switches seats with him to avoid a petty confrontation. The truck blows a tire and crashes; Hans gets a broken leg, but Zucker dies. The head of the unit, who likes Hans and admires his generosity, arranges for Hans to be transferred back home.

Chapter 6: The Bitter Taste of Questions

Hans writes to Liesel and Rosa to tell them he's coming home. They are thrilled and share the news with Rudy's family. Rudy is happy for Liesel, but she can tell he is wondering when his own father will return.

Chapter 7: One Toolbox, One Bleeder, One Bear

Angry about what happened to his father, Rudy decides to steal from rich Nazis. He packs a toolbox full of items he might need. Liesel sees him leaving and tags along, understanding his anger. As they approach the target houses, Rudy acknowledges he can't go through with a real theft.

During the next air raid, Frau Holtzapfel refuses to go to the shelter. Michael, Rosa, and Liesel try to get her to move, but she won't. Liesel and Rosa get Michael to the shelter, but he feels guilty for leaving his mother behind. Even after his mother shows up in the shelter, Michael still blames himself. When the raid is over, they head home. A fire in the woods leads them to a crashed plane, the pilot barely alive. Death arrives and recognizes Liesel again. Rudy gives the pilot his sister's teddy bear; the pilot says "thank you" before he dies.

Chapter 8: Homecoming

Hans comes home. Liesel and Rosa are delighted to see him. That first night Liesel keeps waking up to make sure he's still there. Everyone is happy, but Death warns that this happiness will be short lived.


Earlier Death says, "It kills me sometimes, how people die." Zucker's death might well be described as a whim of Death, but in this story Death is not particularly whimsical. Zucker's death is a fluke, one of those unexplainable things and unanswerable questions. Once again Hans has just missed death. And, as in the first war, Hans benefits from being a good person. His sergeant gets him transferred back home because, as he says, Hans is "a good man, and generous with the cigarettes." For a moment, it seems as though the universe does reward goodness.

Survivors' guilt is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when people live through a life-threatening experience while others do not. It is common among soldiers and often manifests itself as guilt or remorse, a feeling of "I shouldn't be here." Hans may have had it after World War I. Michael Holtzapfel struggles with it now. Michael says, "Why do I want to live? I shouldn't want to, but I do." He feels guilty for living, for if his brother has died, Michael himself shouldn't want to live either. His mother's reaction confirms his feelings.

Liesel has her own survivor's guilt when Hans comes back but Rudy's father does not. Certainly she understands Rudy's anger and the desire to steal from rich Nazis. When he realizes he cannot and will not, "Liesel's relief was pure and sad inside her." She is glad Rudy is not truly a criminal, but she is also sad, possibly because she knows how the world treats good men like Hans, and the man Rudy could become.

The second meeting between Liesel and Death occurs at the site of the crashed bomber. Death recognizes Liesel and observes "she looked me in my face and she did not look away." Likely Death is impressed by Liesel's ability to look at him directly, and thus she stands out to him; she does not turn away from Death, as most people do.

The Last Human Stranger is barely mentioned in the text. Frau Hermann said it was "not bad." It is pale with dark lettering sticking out "like a bone" on the library shelf. It is dusty and clearly hasn't been read in some time. During this visit, Liesel realizes that the library belongs to the woman, not to the mayor, as she had assumed. This realization pleases her, and reconciles her to their odd relationship. Later Liesel thinks of a quotation from it that describes the main character surrounded by people but still lonely. Liesel thinks of these words as she imagines the people she loves around her.
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