The Book Thief

by: Markus Zusak

Part Four

Though it happens slowly, Liesel and Max do begin to form a friendship as they come to recognize how much they have in common. Liesel is immediately intrigued by Max simply because he has a book with him. That the book is MKPF has no great meaning to her at this point. As she begins watching over Max at night and seeing him struggle with nightmares, she sees another connection between them. Both are troubled by their pasts in their sleep, and this shared experience creates a bond between them. Liesel is able to unburden herself to a degree by talking to Max about her nightmares, and it proves so therapeutic that she no longer needs Hans to stay with her at night. Liesel provides Max with something as well: She begins bringing him newspapers and essentially becomes his connection to the outside world. Each consequently finds something they need in the other, and both become extremely grateful for the other’s presence in their lives. At the end of the section, Max gives Liesel what is probably the greatest gift he could give her: a book. To Liesel, it’s perhaps the most valuable present she’s ever received.

A prominent theme in this section is the duality of Nazi-era Germany, and it’s dramatized through Max and his copy of MKPF. Liesel twice asks Max if MKPF, which he has by his bedside, is a ‘good’ book. Although the book contains all the hateful ideology that has made him a prisoner in a stranger’s basement, Max replies that it is the “best book ever” because it saved his life. Ironically, the book that condemned most of Germany’s Jews served as Max’s salvation. After Liesel’s birthday, Max paints over the pages of MKPF and uses it to write his own story. It’s another significant instance of duality as Max transforms the pages from something negative to something positive. It’s also a subversive gesture as Max literally replaces Hitler’s story with his own, symbolically suggesting that his life is as valuable and worth recording as Hitler’s.