The Book Thief

the book theif

What themes does Zusak develop through Ilsa's character? Why does she elicit so much anger from Liesel? What finally enables Liesel to forgive her?


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Ilsa has spent decades mourning the death of her son Johann, who froze to death in 1918, the final year of World War I.  On Liesel's last visit, Ilsa begs her to take The Whistler, which she does at first. But Liesel feels so angry that she returns and yells at Ilsa, attacking her for being wealthy and arrogant and telling her to face the fact that her son is dead. Liesel throws the book on the ground and sees Ilsa as having been beaten up by her words. Back at home, Liesel tells Rosa that she called the mayor's wife pathetic, and that is why Ilsa fired them. Rosa does not think Liesel is capable of insulting Ilsa for obsession over her dead son, and calmly accepts the news of having been fired. Liesel finally sees the chances Ilsa is taking by lending her books and leaving a window open to the library.