Essay About Death and Its Effect on Humans
The Book Thief is a novel written by Markus Zusak about a girl named Liesel. The novel takes us through Liesel’s childhood growing up in Germany during World War II, and her relationship with death- both the character and the end humans meet. Death can affect humans greatly, it can show how much one has not shown appreciation for something/someone, and although one may try to run from it, death is inevitable even when it might not be right. Liesel takes us through Death as a natural force and there will be darkness and grief even when it is not fair.
It is a common human experience to not appreciate things or people until they are gone. One relationship Liesel has in the novel was with a boy named Rudy Steiner. Rudy is Liesel’s first friend, and although she doesn’t know it until she loses him, her first love. Unfortunately for Liesel, she does not realize or show that she loves Rudy until he dies at the end of the book. “‘Wake up, I love you. Come on Rudy, come on, don’t you know I love you, wake up!’” (Zusak 535). Rudy dies without ever knowing how Liesel felt about him, and Liesel immediately regrets not kissing Rudy all the times that he asked her. “Liesel kissed her best friend Rudy Steiner, soft and true on his lips” (536). Rudy is also the person to give Liesel her famous nickname of the book thief. “‘Good night, book thief’ It was the first time Liesel had been branded with her title” (292).
Another important relationship Liesel has is one with Max Vandenburg- A Jew who is running from the Nazi’s and takes cover in hiding in the Hubberman household. When Max came into Liesel's life she almost thought of him as a replacement for the brother she lost when she was younger. Max and Liesel were very alike. They have both lost a lot and they both have faced death. “She did have it easy compared to Max Vandenburg. Certainly, her brother practically died in her arms. Her mother abandoned her. But anything was better than being a jew” (161). Max and Liesel both used books, reading, writing and drawing as their escape. Max is a role model for Liesel and gives her ideas for writing books and stealing them too. “A fact about Max Vandenburg. He would search the faces on Munich Street for a book-thieving girl” (502).
The last relationship that is very important to Liesel is a special one. Hans Hubermann is Liesel’s foster father and he is the first person who cares for and helps Liesel, thus she attaches to him very quickly. Hans helps Liesel get through the terrible nightmares she has about her brother. Liesel has so many nightmares about him because she doesn’t want to forget him. Hans teaches Liesel to keep her brother at heart in a loving way instead of having re-occurring nightmares about him. Liesel knew that she would always have Hans by her side which is why it was so terrible for her to lose him at the end of the book. “The girl knew from the offset that Hans Hubermann would always appear midscream, and he would not leave” (36-37).
Death is inevitable, no matter how much you try to run from it. At the end of the novel, the narrator Death is talking about souls and how some that he collects come into his arms easily and accept it. “Those kinds of souls always do- the best ones. The ones that rise up and say, ‘I know who you are and I am ready’” (531-532). He said that Liesel, Hans, and Max all had souls like this. Secondly, Death states “Here is a small fact, you are going to die” (3).
This is somewhat blunt but again the character Death doesn’t have many emotions. He can’t or else he would be emotionally ripped apart every time he had to take someone's soul away from their life. Thirdly, Death knows that Liesel has one of the souls who come easily, but it is still hard for her to accept seeing the people she loves die. Liesel has to get good at this although because she loses almost everyone she came to love in Molching. “Many moments of avoidance. Papa. She would not, and could not, look at papa. Not yet. Not now” (537). Liesel accepts that her Papa is dead at the end of the book but she isn’t ready to handle the grief yet.
Things are never fair for anyone. The first example of this is around our narrator Death. When you think about people dying unfairly, you feel bad for the victims and the victims family and friends. In The Book Thief, Death also has to pay the price for people dying. Death makes the decision to take people's lives away. Death says how it is traumatic even for someone with so little emotions and feelings to have to be the decision maker when someone dies. “First the colors, then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least how I try” (3). Death explains here that to keep himself from feeling too guilty or sad he focuses on the color of the sky at that moment that he is taking the person's life away to distract him. “The survivors, they’re the ones I can’t stand to look at- I deliberately seek out the colors to keep my mind off them” (5).
Secondly, the most obvious amount of unfairness goes to Liesel. She loses her brother to death, then her mother leaves and she is thrown into a completely new world and just as she is starting to settle in death takes everyone except Max from her. “She did not know where she was running, for Himmel Street no longer existed. Everything was new and apocalyptic” (533). This is after the bombing on Himmel Street- which ironically means heaven in German- and everyone is killed there but Liesel.
Lastly, it is not fair for the victims of death. And even Death admits that in the book. More specifically about Rudy but Death does give some hints at the beginning of the book that a lot of people will die who don’t deserve to. “A small announcement about Rudy Steiner. He didn’t deserve to die the way he did” (241). One trend with death in The Book Thief is that any death mentioned, the victim of that death didn’t deserve it. Clearly, if Hitler’s death was mentioned this wouldn’t be true, but all the deaths that were talked about weren’t fair or deserved by the victims.
In conclusion, death is a re-concurring theme in this novel and it shows us how life can sometimes not be fair or pleasant and we have to learn how to live to the very fullest and appreciate what we have while it is still here. Zusak's interpretation of death and the relationships people can have with it is very interesting and something very different.