The Book Thief

What does Max's "The Word Shaker" reveal about the importance of words? How do words function for Hitler? How do words function for Liesel?

Part 8 - The Hidden Sketchbook

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Reading "The Word Shaker" effectively caps Liesel's realization of the awesome power of words. Throughout the novel, Hitler's propaganda pervades the lives of the principal characters and impels the entire nation to wage an horrific war and engage in genocide. There is a direct link from Hitler's book Mein Kampf to any number of tragedies that have affected Liesel's life: the deaths of her mother and brother, the persecution of Max, and the recent loss of Hans and Rudy's father to the war. "The Word Shaker" validates the use of words and defiance which spring from compassionate intentions to combat words which spring from hatred. Liesel herself touched on this lesson early on, when she beat up Ludwig Schmeikl for insulting her illiteracy; she later apologized after witnessing the book burning and the Nazi speaker's invective against Jews and Communists. Like the girl in "The Word shaker," Liesel, as well as her tall foster father Hans, is capable of maintaining a potent defiance against Nazi cruelty. Max's story insists that Liesel's compassion is strong enough to destroy miles of Hitler's evil.