29th October 2018

“The Book Thief” essay

“There was something black and rectangular lodged in the snow, only the girl saw it. She bent down and picked it up and held it firmly in her fingers. the book had silver writing on it.” It was that moment Liesel had stolen her first book, a gravedigger’s handbook.

The book thief symbolises important things to Liesel. Determination, feelings, and even thoughts or trends were represented some way all throughout the text. The Gravedigger’s Handbook represents love, memory, change and strength for Liesel. The handbook first appears when Werner’s burial takes place on the side of the train tracks. Liesel and Werner were riding on the train with their mother when he passed, meaning Werner had to be buried on the trip. This meant a lot of trauma for Liesel, not only that she was about to say goodbye to her mother for a new family, but she just lost her brother too; meaning she was going into an entire new life alone. Liesel and her mother were standing on the side of the rail tracks in some unfamiliar place. The gravedigger’s had finished filling her brothers grave, when the 14 year old apprenticed boy’s handbook fell out and landed in the snow. Immediately, Liesel then picked up the book deciding to keep it. Liesel keeps the book, throughout her journey, and even to her new home with the Hubermanns. She hides this handbook by keeping it under the sheets of her bed, ensuring neither of her adopting parents find it. She keeps this handbook because it is the last piece of memory she has with her mother and her brother. Keeping this handbook keeps them seemingly ‘close’ or ‘linked’ to her, and makes her feel like a part of them are with her. “On her first night with the Hubermanns, she had hidden her last link to him – the gravedigger’s handbook – under her mattress, and occasionally she would pull it out and hold it”. This quote would suggest that Liesel very much so misses her family as expected. When it says “and occasionally she would pull it out and hold it”. We are presented with her missing her brother; holding the book almost making out she is holding a part of her younger brother again. This is proven when it says “The point is it didn’t really matter what the book was about. It was more what it meant that was more important”. Her carrying around this seemingly unpleasant book with her about death, and her holding it to her as a symbolism of her family makes me or people as an audience feel for Liesel and her innocence.

In the same sense, the gravedigger’s handbook symbolises not only memory and family to Liesel, but education and learning. In the beginning of the text, we quickly learn Liesel has no education, in fact she can’t write or even read. She never felt the need early on to know what the books purpose was, she only loved the meaning behind it. As anyone would predict, Liesel wouldn’t be able to teach herself how to read, and she didn’t intend on asking for help doing so to read the book. The book was Liesel’s own secret. Until one night after Liesel had a nightmare resulting in a accident in her bed, Hans found the handbook when changing her sheets. “When he reached under and pulled at the fabric, something loosened and landed with a thud. a black book with silver writing on it came hurtling out and landed on the floor.” Hans then talked to Liesel about it, asking if it was her book. “it is yours – yes papa – do you want to read it? – yes papa – well we’d better read it then.” Hans quickly realised that she was hiding it, then he learnt she herself couldn’t actually read it . Hans then began to help Liesel read, regardless of the fact he wasn’t much good himself. Four years later, Liesel was more capable to read. She had learnt through the school to read and write too, but her biggest supporter was Hans, encouraging her the most out of everyone. This book, symbolising a lot to Liesel, but mostly love, memory and finally education.

“First up is something white. Of the blinding kind… it felt as if the whole globe was dressed in snow.” Colours were used a lot to describe scenarios and sceneries. Death being the narrator, and death itself, he saw everything. Questioning us with colours, he asks things such as “what colour will everything be at the moment when i come for you? what will the sky be saying?” perhaps asking us how we think we’re going to go with what colour sky we last see and him too. Whether we’re seeing red for violence, white for peace, black from destruction, blue and yellow with happiness, or what. The use of colours too, is used to describe Liesel. The first time he saw her, was white. The white was used to describe Liesel’s younger brother Werner’s death on the train ride to their new foster home. When this soul had passed, Death said he saw white, a blinding white. The idea of white referring to death is the idea of what that person was or meant to the world. Werner’s existence to Liesel was innocent, young, as well as deserving; To Liesel his soul was a peaceful one taken too soon. Therefore when death first saw Liesel she was surrounded by the colour white, symbolising the theft of a pure soul.

“The last time I saw her was red. The sky was like soup, boiling and stirring. In some places, it was burned. There were black crumbs, and pepper, streaked across the redness… Then, bombs.” The idea of red symbolism was crucial and important, and symbolises so much to death and to Liesel. Red symbolises death, violence, the nazi flag, and in this case bombing. The quote used above is not only stating that there is tragic deaths and bombing, but it is a flashforward. This quote is presented to us in the beginning of the book by death, meaning he was not only giving us a taste of what was to come; stated one of the three colours and major life events for Liesel. When the quote says the sky was like soup and was stirring, it means everything was going wrong and lives were being taken violently. As well with saying there were black crumbs and pepper, which were the resulting ashes. This quote from death was important because it not only symbolised that things were going bad, but that Liesel’s world was going to be turned upside down. Then as time goes on, the bombing takes place resulting in the death of all her loved ones.  “the hot sky was red and turning. Pepper streaks were starting to swirl and i became curious.”

Throughout the text, we are presented with Liesel’s many different point views, memories, feelings and opinions. Symbolism played a potentially excessive amount of this, representing many things to us as readers as much as it does to Liesel or Death. Emotion, memory, death, happiness, purity are such examples of what symbolism has represented in one form of another, whether its a colour or a object. “The Book Thief” itself, goes off colour symbolism, as in Death’s eyes everything and everyone has it’s own colour.

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