Death is the nearly omniscient narrator for The Book Thief. Although Death asserts it is Liesel’s story, the book is told undeniably through the lens of Death’s point of view. During his introduction, Death tells us he tries to keep a measure of distance between himself and living humans, but he does not always succeed. Death sees himself as an overworked entity who has it worse off than humans because he can never pause his job. He wants sympathy from the reader, or at least a better impression than the grim reaper. Death is clearly sentimental. He honors each human death by noticing the color of the sky when he collects their soul. He cares about the way he is perceived, and he laments his role in the world’s tragedies.
Death seems to tell Liesel’s story as a way of making sense of her and of the human spirit. As baffled as he is by humans, he longs to understand what makes them live the way they do. Death also makes Liesel’s story richer because he is such an involved narrator. Often, we learn key insights about the characters because Death makes an aside comment about them. Death admires Liesel and the characters in her story, making it easier for us as readers to admire them as well. Death’s outsider perspective helps us to view our own humanity from a different lens. Liesel’s story has some extraordinary elements, but she also experiences a plethora of common human experiences. Death narrates both the extraordinary and the mundane as though they are full of wonder.