The Book Thief

Stealing the Narrative: The Irony of Reading in The Book Thief College

The dominating theme of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is an ironic one. Here is a novel where a main character is nothing less than the symbol of mortality itself, Death, yet the story continually celebrates the life spirit that is contained within books. Books are inanimate objects, to be sure, but they are also very much like Death: a mere symbol of the stories contained them rather than the tangible concretizing of those living, breathing characters. And yet the message that arises over and over throughout the story is that a book can have multiple lives. Books, the story suggests, are almost like cats that have been endowed with the myth of multiple lives because they are capable of sudden reappearing after a long sojourn away from your consciousness. The Book Thief is a novel that raises the metaphor of each reader bringing his own meaning to the act of reading into the real world, primarily through its proposition that readers have the power to take the hatred intended by the author of Mein Kampf. That book is transformed into a literal key to unlocking what the reader wants the narrative to mean, creating freedom by undermining a symbol of totalitarianism.

Death narrates the book and very early on encapsulates for...

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