Why is Death haunted by humans?



Death spends the entirety of The Book Thief trying to understand humans. He tells us that he sees humans at their best and at their worst, and he does not know how good and evil can coexist in people. Death witnesses acts of selfishness, cruelty, sacrifice, and compassion. He sees humanity continue to live after they lose their homes and the people they love, and he sees them rush to kill one another in war. Throughout the narrative, however, Death focuses most on stories of hope, kindness, and resilience. He is drawn to Liesel because he sees this enduring strength in her life. The contradictions inherent in the human experience bewilder Death, and he cannot keep himself from becoming invested in them.

What is Rudy’s role in his family?

Rudy is a rambunctious middle child. He does not come across as particularly responsible, but he has a protective streak over his younger siblings. He knows their favorite stuffed animals, and how to set dominoes so they can best enjoy knocking them over. Rudy is initially characterized by the Jesse Owens incident. He causes problems for his family by idolizing a Black man in Nazi Germany, even though he is just a child trying to imitate his hero. As Rudy grows up, he keeps his competitive spirit and distinguishes himself in school and athletics. Rudy’s efforts to stand out work, but not in the way he wants them to. When he is chosen for special training, Rudy’s parents stand up to protect him from military service. Even after his father is drafted and leaves, Rudy does not take responsibility for his family in the same way his older brother Kurt does, but his anger at Hitler and the world’s injustice grows as a result of his father’s absence. Rudy does care about his family, but he would rather fight the world than help out at home. He understands competition and retribution better than defensive protection.

What is the first book Liesel steals?

Liesel takes The Grave Digger’s Handbook from the snow after her brother’s burial. She finds it after it falls out of the apprentice grave digger’s pocket, and she takes it because it connects her to her brother and mother. At the time, she cannot read, so she does not know the contents of the book. At Himmel Street, it becomes the first book she learns how to read. Even though it is a strange book for a little girl to read, it holds deep significance for Liesel as a reminder of her past and also of the beginning of her life as a reader, a writer, and a book thief.

Why does Max feel guilty?

Max is grateful to stay on Himmel Street, even though he knows his presence there puts Hans, Rosa, and Liesel in danger. Max wants to survive, but he believes his willingness to survive even if it puts others in danger is inherently selfish. When leaves his family behind, he does not want to go back and try to survive with them, but he believes that is what he should want. Max understands the risk the Hubermanns take by hiding him in their home, and he feels at fault, even though they take that risk voluntarily. Max struggles with being at the mercy of others’ kindness, not because of the kindness itself, but because he accepts it. Max feels it would be nobler to sacrifice his survival, but his will to live outweighs his idealized principle of selflessness.

What does Ilsa Hermann give Liesel?

Ilsa gives Liesel many things. First, she gives Liesel permission to use her library. Liesel is amazed by the library and sees their reading sessions together as a sort of friendship. Then, when the Hermanns cancel their laundry service, Ilsa tells Liesel to keep The Whistler. Liesel refuses, but later comes back to steal the book. When Ilsa learns about Liesel’s thievery, she leaves out cookies for the next time Liesel comes to steal books. Near the end of the story, Ilsa travels to Himmel Street to give Liesel a notebook in which Liesel writes The Book Thief. By encouraging Liesel to read and write, Ilsa gives Liesel a window into understanding herself and her world. Words are Liesel’s haven. After Himmel Street and Liesel’s life are destroyed, Ilsa offers another haven by taking Liesel in to live with her.