The Book Thief

by: Markus Zusak

Rudy Steiner

Characters Rudy Steiner

Rudy is kind and loyal, specifically when it comes to Liesel. He clearly cares about her, and he often sticks by her side and tries to protect her if necessary. When Viktor Chemmel begins berating Liesel, Rudy tells him to leave her alone, and when Viktor tosses Liesel’s book in the river, Rudy doesn’t hesitate to dive in after it, not because it holds any value to him but because he knows it’s important to Liesel. But Liesel isn’t the only character he tries to protect. His troubles in the Hitler Youth start when he intervenes to help Tommy Müller, whose ear problems make him unable to hear the marching orders. Rather than stay quiet, however, Rudy helps his friend, or at least tries to, and never shies away from protecting others because he’s worried about being punished or hurt himself.

In several ways Rudy is also representative of a typical teenager, and he shows that even in extraordinary circumstances people will continue to have rather ordinary concerns. Although there’s a war going on, his main interest is usually soccer or winning races. His conflicts in the Hitler Youth have nothing to do with ideology; they’re simply about the fact that he and Franz Deutscher don’t get along. At first he steals because he’s hungry, but he keeps doing it because he gets a thrill out of it. Everything about him suggests youthful innocence about the world, until his father is drafted. Once that happens, his character undergoes a dramatic shift. He becomes angry and somewhat withdrawn, and he begins to recognize the effects that political events have on people who are seemingly not involved. Even so, he never loses the kindness that made him friends with Liesel when she first arrived in Molching.