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The main theme throughout "The Book Thief" is the theme of words and propaganda.
Words and Propaganda
Liesel learns throughout the course of the novel that words hold a remarkable power to compel people to commit acts of cruelty. At age 9, Liesel is illiterate, and the first book she learns to read is a manual about grave digging. Learning to read brings Liesel closer to the understanding that Hitler's propaganda is the root of his power and the reason why her mother, father, and brother are dead. Max, who understands well the effect Hitler's propaganda has had on his race, helps impart this lesson through his allegorical story "The Word Shaker." The story describes Hitler's use of oratory to brainwash Germany and compel German citizens to turn against the Jews; a young girl who understands the power of words is capable of defying the Fuhrer through words of compassion and love. Reading -- particularly reading Max's writings to her -- brings Liesel great joy throughout the novel, yet she despairs after seeing Max on his way to a concentration camp, and rips up a book, wondering what good words are. Ilsa gives Liesel a blank book and encourages her to write. Liesel ends up writing the story of her life, ending with the line, "I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right." This line conveys Liesel's realization of the manipulative power of words and indicates her attempt to master the art of writing for compassionate use, to make words "right."