The Book Thief

Zusak's Death Breaks the Mould 12th Grade

In The Book Thief, Zusak expounds upon the concept of death as a passive force and not a vengeful creature. Zusak presents the character Death in a manner that is more effectively conceived than the traditional rendition of Death’s personae. This unconventional characterization is validated by the realization that dying is a natural occurrence whereby Zusak’s Death does not hunt, but merely collects souls whose times have run out.

Zusak first touches upon the topic of human demise when Death states in the beginning of The Book Thief “A small fact: You are going to die” (3). Almost immediately upon opening the book, the reader sees that Death is the narrator, and they are surrounded with an aura of distress. However, the character of Death quickly proves not to be as cruel and heartless as his scythe-wielding counterpart. Death states that he is “not malicious. I am not violent. I am a result.” (6). Zusak’s Death does not methodically or whimsically reap the souls of the miscellaneous peoples he happens to come across. Rather, he approaches the souls when the time is appropriate and unavoidable, and leaves behind the souls’ survivors with an apologetic air. When presented in this benign, passive manner, and not as a hunter or...

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