Hans and Rosa Hubermann: The Book Thief Character Analysis



Hans Hubermann and Rosa Hubermann play a significant role in Liesel Meminger’s life. Liesel is left as an orphan after her mother falls ill and her brother dies. Hans Huberman and Rosa Huberman take the responsibility of Liesel’s life through meticulous care and love. Together, they are able to raise and look after Liesel at times of conflict. Hans comes off as a gentle and benevolent man while Rosa is shown to be brusque and contentious. Hans and Rosa share many aspects of their lives, but they also differ in their early demeanor and actions towards Liesel.

Hans and Rosa Hubermann are introduced fairly early in the novel and since then, there is a notable juxtaposition in their description. Rosa is described as churlish and choleric while Hans is amiable and benignant. Hans and Rosa are both communists by belief and receive the message that they were to take in two children from a sick mother. Soon realizing that only one had survived the trip, the novel introduces Hans and Rosa: “After a few minutes, a very tall man came out. Hans Hubermann, Liesel’s foster father…On the other was the squat shaped of Rosa Hubermann, who looked like a small wardrobe with a coat thrown over it. There was a distinct waddle to her walk.

Almost cute, if it wasn’t for her face, which was like creased-up cardboard and annoyed, as if she was merely tolerating all of it” (Zusak 27) . Since the beginning, Rosa is said to have a rather indifferent and pugnacious temper. The narrator, Death, shortly mentions that “She was good at being furious. In fact, you could say that Rosa Hubermann had a face decorated with constant fury. That was how the creases were made in the cardboard texture of her complexion” (32-33) . One would say that Rosa Hubermann is not the most affable human, but despite her ill-tempered ways, she truly loves Liesel. On the other hand, Hans Hubermann’s characterization is the antithesis of Rosa’s.

The narrator describes Liesel’s early interactions with Hans and her depiction of his eyes as so: “When he turned the light on in the small, callous washroom that night, Liesel observed the strangeness of her foster father’s eyes. They were made of kindness, and silver. Like soft silver, melting. Liesel, upon seeing those eyes, understood that Hans Hubermann was worth a lot” (34). Hans gives off a strong feeling of affection and security unlike Rosa, who causes some of Liesel’s anxiety. His overall solicitude stays with him throughout the novel and really shows in times of need. Without a doubt, Rosa and Hans Hubermann’s preliminary description depict how they differ from one another in their general demeanor.

Throughout the beginning of the novel, Rosa and Hans’ actions towards Liesel, builds their overall portrayal. Even so, their actions and deeds further enhance their differences.  Liesel is forced to adapt to a new family and life very quickly, but only through the actions of Hans and Rosa could she do so. Rosa uses scrupulous and punitive methods in order to achieve this while Hans resorts to more merciful ones. Rosa is strict towards Liesel for she cares for her safety, but in doing so, the reader then associates her with her acts of harshness. After her arrival to Himmel Street, Liesel stresses taking a bath in which she faces “nothing but dry paint, difficult breath, and the deluge of abuse from Rosa” (33).

Even though Rosa pushes Liesel to conform to her new life at uncomfortable speeds, she only does so having known the consequences for taking care and housing Liesel. Liesel accompanies Rosa on her washing deliveries around Molching and Rosa scolds her for getting distracted and always spending time with the other children like Rudy Steiner: "For a moment, it appeared that her foster mother would comfort her or pat her on the shoulder. Good girl, Liesel. Good Girl. Pat, pat, pat. She did no such thing. Instead Rosa Hubermann stood up, selected a wooden spoon and held it under Liesel's nose. It was a necessity as far as she was concerned. “When you're on the street, you take the bag to each place and bring it straight home, with the money, even though it's next to nothing.

No going to Papa if he's actually working for once. No mucking around with that little Saukerl, Rudy Steiner. Straight. Home” (92) . Rosa disciplines Liesel through endless lecture and rebuke, but only because she is concerned about her safety and well-being. Although her methods are relatively efficient, Hans’ gives a different outlook and helps Liesel through cordiality. Liesel experiences traumatizing nightmares during her first few weeks with the Hubermanns. Hans was able to comfort her during the night and help her adapt: “He came in every night and sat with her. The first couple of times, he simply stayed—a stranger to kill the aloneness. A few nights after that, he whispered, “Shhh, I’m here, it’s all right.” After three weeks, he held her. Trust was accumulated quickly, due primarily to the brute strength of the man’s gentleness, his thereness.

The girl knew from the outset that Hans Hubermann would always appear mid-scream, and he would not leave. (36-37) . Hans stays with Liesel through her dreadful nights, ridding her of previously felt abandonment. Hans and Liesel go on to learn how to read during their “midnight classes” during the nights that she has trouble falling asleep. Hans shows deep affection and love for Liesel and his ways of aiding her are met with gratitude. Nevertheless, Rosa and Hans’ ways of showing love and assuaging Liesel at the beginning of the novel, thus expands their differences.

Hans and Rosa Hubermann’s general differences are depicted through their disposition and their behavior towards Liesel throughout the early stages of the novel. Hans is seen with an amicable personality at first while Rosa with an austere manner. Through Liesel’s early transition, Rosa uses relentless methods and Hans uses magnanimous ones in order to help her efficiently conform. In all, Hans and Rosa differentiate in certain aspects and in certain situations, but all the more for the love of Liesel.