Max gives Liesel a story called "The Standover Man" for her birthday. What is the signifigance of this story?
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The Standover Man is one of two complete illustrated stories that appear within The Book Thief. The story is of a bird who is scared of men standing over him: the plot is identical to Max's own life. The first "standover man" is his father, who vanishes at a young age. As a boy, he enjoys fighting, and whenever he loses another boy would be standing over him. When he comes to a safe house, it is a girl, not a man, standing over him. They share interests ("TRAIN," "DREAMS," "FISTS"), and the girl says he looks like something else. The picture on this page is of a man looking into a mirror and seeing a bird -- this is a reference to Liesel's comment that Max's hair looks like feathers. The girl asks the bird about his dreams, and both his and Liesel's recurring nightmares are pictured: Max saying goodbye to his family, and Liesel sleeping with her younger brother at the side of her bed. The bird now thinks they are friends, and that on her birthday the girl gave a gift to him, a hug. The "best standover man" he has ever known is not a man, but a girl. The final page is Liesel reading in the basement, with words like "VALUABLE" and "DAYLIGHT" written on the wall: this is a reference to Liesel's basement writing practice.
The idea of Max being represented by a bird suggests that while he is physically "caged" in the basement, his spirit is free and proves indomitable by the Nazis. The "standover men" in Max's life suggest his inner vulnerability: losing his father at a young age, for example, is compared with losing a fight. Yet a girl, not a man, standing over him brings him comfort as they become friends. Max has reached perhaps the most vulnerable point of his life thus far: he can continue to survive only at the mercy of the Hubermanns. His friendship with Liesel brings him such comfort that his best standover man is a young figure of compassion, not antagonism, and loyalty, not abandonment.