2nd August 2018

2.4- The Book Thief Essay

Analyse how language features revealed the writer’s purpose in the written text(s).

A child’s maturation is the emergence of personal and behavioural characteristics dependent on their experiences through the process of growth. In the “Book Thief”, by Markus Zusak, Liesel chooses to read texts which influence her personal experiences. She chooses her likes, dislikes and how to react in times of conflict which is part of her maturation. As the reader we are brought through Liesels journey of mental development through the symbols of the books she chooses to read. We see these symbols educate Liesel to move from an innocent child to an experienced young lady.

Liesel is uneducated, about to be separated from her mother and grieving her brothers death. All dispositional factors for Liesel, however they become worthy experiences to grow from. We must realise at this stage of the book Liesel is illiterate, unable to read or write having no say on her life. “The Gravediggers Handbook” is introduced at her brothers burial she takes it to her new home as an item of comfort to remember her brother and the seperation from her mother by. The book caters for Liesel’s feelings of abandonment, it symbolises what may be one of the greatest losses in her life. Death recalls, “still in belief, she started to dig. He couldn’t be dead he couldn’t.” The impact Liesel felt can be heard from this quote. Her stomach suddenly dropping, her body becoming weak and the huge gaping hole in her heart that feels like it will never heal. In this exact moment the writers purpose is for us to acknowledge this is the end of Liesel’s childhood era. She has now become exposed to grief, loss, loneliness and ultimately the bigger world, a world of feeling that no 9 year old would typically be exposed to so early.

The writer illustrates gravedigger’s handbook to also represent the start of Liesel’s journey with words and a friendship with Hans. Hans turns Liesel’s embarrassment of wetting the bed when he says, “Is this yours?”, making this moment an opportunity for Liesel to begin her relationship with literacy. The reader can take away from Liesels introduction to “the gravediggers handbook”, as a new life opening up for her. A life where she can form her own identity, and communicate her ideas and opinions in ways she never could before she became literate. The reader may choose to see this as the start of Liesels maturation, the start of thinking for herself and displaying confidence within.

At a Nazi book burning, “Beneath her shirt, a book was eating her up”, the writer challenging us to recognise this as a symbol of the effect words can have physically on someone all through entering the mind and taking control. Liesel’s amusement with literacy drives her to take the book, however this isn’t the only factor, Liesel wants to take back some of what her new sworn enemy, Adolf Hitler is destroying. The Nazis held these book burnings to destroy books that represented cultural, religious or political opposition to the Nazi regime. A way to eliminate the work and ideas of people the Nazis despised, and to proclaim the superiority of Hitlers beliefs. However Liesel was able to recover a book from the fire, this is where the writer is suggesting no matter how extreme the Nazi actions are to rid Germany of there disbeliefs, these words and ideas will always survive, and are worth fighting for. The reader may choose to believe that in this moment when “In fact, on April 20 – the Führer‘s birthday – when she snatched a book from beneath a steaming pile of ashes, Liesel was a girl made of darkness”. The writer shows Liesel taking control of her life as the secrecy of stealing the book gives Liesel power in her actions and beliefs, that no one else can choose for her anymore. This is a major point in Liesels maturation. Taking the book from the nazi burning is a symbol of rebellion and power, which from this particular moment onwards we see throughout the book.

In the “Word Shaker”, Hitler rises to power through his commitment to gaining control through words. He ensures he tells people exactly what they want to hear, planting words in as many areas of Germany as possible. He planted them endlessly until he had grown forests of words and symbols throughout Germany. The writer portrays a small, skinny girl in the novel which is supposed to be Liesel. Liesel plants her own seed surrounded by Hitler’s trees. The writer symbolises her roots as roots of morals, and if she keeps them despite the world around her they will grow. The tree Liesel plants doesn’t stop growing and when soldiers attempt to chop it down it turns out to be immensely difficult, the writer suggesting Liesel’s morals cannot be influenced by Hitler nor the Nazi party.

The writer has related this to Liesel in real life. Liesel’s morals and beliefs remain strong just like her tree did in the word shaker, what the Nazis enforce cannot affect her. Liesel looking after Max proves she has matured a long way because she shows compassion even though the world around her despises people like Max. The writer has used this book to signify yet another point in Liesel’s maturation. There is a notable change with Liesel, as these two books are a refuge for in the midst of Nazi Germany. She is no longer the powerless, scared little girl, but a woman who has empathy and compassion for others and will stand up for what’s right willing to help no matter what the situation is.

The author uses “The Gravedigger’s Handbook”, “The Shoulder Shrug”, and  “The Word Shaker” to prove the influence the symbols have on Liesel’s development from a child to a young lady. Throughout all four books we learn multiple life lessons, especially from the two books Max writes Liesel. The books gave Liesel opportunities of friendship, becoming literate and assistance while dealing with grief and loss. Liesel has come a long way from being illiterate and essentially powerless to being her own mature woman at the end. All of this would not of been able to happen without the books and what they taught her.

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