The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

book-thief-2.jpg external image markus-zusak.gif

Group Members:
Keith McDonald
Sarah Gorman
Lindsey Purpura
Erik Canfield
Alex Kurtz
Chloe Sarapas
Ryan Cody
Courtney Barker
Alex Kapothanasis
Amy Sanders
Tom McDowell

Discussion Location: Flex Room

Characters: (in order of importance)
Leisel Meminger
  • Main character, young girl growing up in Nazi Germany
  • Loses brother at young age and finds first book: The Gravedigger's Handbook
  • Mother can't support her and she is adopted by Hans and Rosa Hubermann
  • Develops close friendships with Rudy Steiner, Max Vandenburg, and Ilsa Hermann
  • Has a love for books
  • Symbol of innocent German children that suffered from the Holocaust
Hans Hubermann
  • Leisel's adoptive father
  • Plays accordion - learned to play from Erik Vandenburg
  • Gentle, loving man - doesn't agree with Nazi ideas and helps Jews
  • Takes in Max Vandenburg (a Jew)
  • Symbol of anti-Nazi sentiments in Germany
Max Vandenburg
  • Son of Erik Vandenburg
  • Taken in by Hans Hubermann and develops close friendship with Leisel
  • Meinkampf "saved his life"
  • Symbol of Jewish hardship and struggle in Nazi Germany
Rosa Hubermann
  • Leisel's adoptive mother
  • Local laundry woman
  • Strong-headed and opinionated
  • Loving underneath and has true love for Hans, Leisel, and Max
  • Symbol of unsure German - wants to do whats morally right and yet wants to survive
Rudy Steiner
  • Leisel's best friend
  • Jesse Owen's incident
  • Symbol of innocent German children that suffer from Nazi party actions
Ilsa Hermann
  • Mayor's wife
  • Lost her son Johann when he was young and never fully recovered
  • Sees Leisel stealing a book from a book burning and in begins to leave window to library open for Leisel
  • Develops friendship with Leisel
  • Took Leisel in after Himmel Street bombing
  • Symbol of politicians with little power under Nazi party
Frau Holztapfel
  • Rough relationship with Rosa Hubermann
  • Symbol of Nazi soldier mothers and their suffering
Arthur Berg
  • Lead group of thieves
  • Fair leader
  • Distributed food evenly
  • Symbol of nice people remaining in Germany
Viktor Chemmel
  • Lead group of thieves after Berg
  • Unfair leader
  • Did not share
  • Indicative of the state of the country
  • Symbol of the shift to absolute chaos
Frau Diller
  • Nazi supporter
  • Reflects the mindsethe average German
  • Symbol of average Nazi German
Tommy Müller
  • A friend of Rudy and Liesel
  • Has hearing problems and a twitch
  • Is made fun of by his classmates and by the leaders of the Hitler Youth

Clarifying Questions:

Character Analysis:
How does the switch from Arthur Berg to Viktor Chemmel as the group leader reflect the state of the country?
Discuss the differences between Hans Hubermann, Rosa Hubermann, Frau Diller, and Ilsa Hermann as far as their opinions on the Nazi party.
Do you think Death respects humans? Why or why not?
As a character, how did Liesel become a better educated person through her development of reading?
Does Liesel’s stealing effect her personality/character in any way? If so, how?

Plot Analysis:
Why do you think Zusak starts with an image of Leisel after the Himmel Street bombing the tell her whole story from there?
The first book that Leisel steals is "The Gravedigger's Handbook". Could this be considered foreshadowing for the end of the novel?

Setting/ Time period:
Why is the book set during the Holocaust?
What is significant about books during this time?
What emotions are brought to mind when thinking about the time period relating to the story?
Why is stealing a normal activity in this novel?
How does the Third Reich’s actions against Jews effect the plot?

Historical significance:
Did you feel that it was necessary to have background knowledge of the Holocaust to understand this book?
How did this book impact your thoughts, ideas, and feelings about the Holocaust?

Style/ Narration:
Why does Zusak speak from the point of view of death?
How does the narration add to the novel?
Why does Zusak insert the bold passages?
What did you think of the narrative?
How and why does Zusak use the imagery and personification that he does? (Leisel's description of the dripping sun to Max.)
How do the drawings of Max ad Liesel give you a better perception of the book.
How is it significant that Death (the narrator) does not keep Leisel's death a secret from the reader?

Themes/ Motifs:
Why does the narrator refer to colors so often?
How does the theme of guilt come into the novel? Who feels guilty? For what?
How is stealing a theme of the novel?

What are some symbols in this book?
How is Mein Kampf a symbol of betrayal and survival?
How is hunger symbolic in the novel?
How is death symbolic in the novel
Do you think it symbolized something that some of the words of Mein Kampf still showed through the pages that Max painted?

Significant passages:
"A last note from your narrator: I am haunted by humans" (550). What do you think Death means by this, and how is he haunted by humans?

"Whoever named Himmel Street certainly had a healthy sense of irony. Not that it was a living hell. It wasn't. But it sure as hell wasn't heaven, either" (26). How does Himmel Street act as both Heaven and Hell for Liesel?

"You could argue that Liesel Meminger had it easy. She did have it easy compared to Max Vandenburg. Certainly, her brother practically died in her arms. Her mother abandoned her" (161). How is loss a common theme in the novel?

How do you feel the about the conclusion and how death as the narrator sets the stage for the ending?

Alternate Covers:

I believe that these two less common book covers for "The Book Thief" make more sense as a cover then the popular book cover shown at the beginning of this page. I am convinced of this because the more popular book cover is is a very brief event in the novel and doesn't really explain anything of the novel as a whole. These two book covers are more effective I believe because they explain the novel better then the popular cover. For example, the cover on the right is effective because the novel is based on a girl reading books. Also the cover on the left is effective because throughout the novel all the characters are "playing" with death.






Fighting for Their Lives : This is a great essay about the overall book and the different view points that are not nessecarely brought out in the text. This is very in-depth and interesting. Please check it out!