The Book Thief

Guilt in The Book Thief 9th Grade

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is set in Nazi Germany in World War II. Narrated by Death, the novel takes as its protagonist Liesel Meminger, a girl who grows up in a foster home where Jews aren't seen as evil, in a departure from attitudes in the rest of Nazi Germany. Max, a Jew living in the Hubermann's basement, carries guilt on his shoulders as much as anyone else. He left his family, endangered a man's life, and jeopardized a whole family by living in their basement. Nazi Germany makes Max feel this way, persecuting Jews and threatening anyone who shows compassion towards the Jewish religion; naturally, guilt is a burden carried on the shoulders of many characters in The Book Thief.

In The Book Thief, Max is the character who bears the most guilt. When a Nazi soldier knocks at Max’s family’s door, his mother finds a way to let him escape, but only Max can go, and he decides to leave: “If only he’d turned for one last look at his family as he left the apartment. Perhaps then the guilt would not have been so heavy. No final goodbye” (193). Max feels selfish and cruel, escaping the arms of the Führer and going to live a new life while his family is tortured and killed. He also feels guilty because he endangered the life of a...

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