2THEMES AND IDEAS DEATH HUMANITY RELATIONSHIPS WORDS AND BOOKS COURAGE GUILT
3DEATH and lossWhat message does the text give us about Death? Write a statement.Death is an inevitable part of life.‘Death’ regularly foreshadows the death of characters, this reinforces that dying is an evitable part of life and will happen to all of us: “Of course, I'm being rude. I'm spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it.” p. 263Death does not have to be feared.The story is narrated by ‘Death’ personified. It is purposefully shown to have humanistic characteristics.‘Death’ as the narrator is reluctant to do its‘job’. It is sentimental and cares for souls: “your soul will be in my arms..I will carry you gently away” p. 4Death sometimes comes too quickly“the children I carried in my arms” p. 359
4DEATH and loss Death is an unavoidable and difficult part of life. Devastation of war brings many deaths.Max and Liesel have been touched by death and loss – nightmares and guilt.Frau Hermann’s grief following the loss of her son is evident.Michael Holtzapfel hangs himself after his brother dies in warDeath is often harder for those who survive.“Death” distracts itself by the colours so that he doesn’t have to see the survivors.
5HUMANITY Humans are capable of both brutal and beautiful things ‘The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both ’ (p522)The novel describes Rudy Steiner: ‘In years to come he would be a giver of bread, not a stealer – proof again of the contradictory human being. So much good, so much evil. Just add water.'(p 178)Even ‘Death’ cannot comprehend how humans can be so cruel and yet so good at the same time. He is “haunted by humans” p584
6Human Brutality How is human brutality shown? Liesel’s parents are taken away for being communistsLiesel shows cruelty when she terrorises Ludwig and Tommy (at the same times as Hitler invades Poland); and in her treatment of Frau HermannRudy’s and Tommy’s experiences at the Hitler youthRudy steals from Otto SturmSuffering endured by Max as a Jew in hiding.The death marchesThe atrocities committed in the war, the persecution and deaths of millions of JewsThe horrors of war throughout the novel (including flashbacks to WWI)
7THE BEAUTY OF HUMANITY How is the beauty of Humanity shown? Erik Vandenburg (Max’ father) saves Hans’ lifeHans and Rosa accept Liesel (and later Max) into their home, despite their own lack of wealth and food (and the great dangers)Walter helps Max to initially escape the concentration campsHans gives one of the starving Jewish camp prisoners a piece of bread- a risky decisionMax and Liesel’s friendship, developed amidst war and sufferingRudy’s defence of Liesel and Tommy. He leaves a teddy bear on the chest of the American pilot who crashes his plane and copies Hans act of leaving bread.Hans’ patience in teaching Liesel and his selflessness through buying her the books for ChristmasRosa’s love for Hans (taking the accordion to bed)Frau Hermann sharing her books with Liesel
8Humanity’s Brutality and Beauty The novel often juxtaposes (places side by side) these two aspects to humanity in order to draw the reader’s attention to this contrast or contradiction.The dying soldier in the plane crash (brutality) is given a teddy bear by Rudy (beauty).The Death Marches (brutality) and the acts of kindness shown by Hans, Rudy and Liesel (beauty).Himmel Street is destroyed (brutality) and Liesel tells Rosa she is beautiful (beauty)Rosa’s filthy mouth (brutality) and unquestioning love for her family and Max (beauty)Max writes The Standover Man (beauty) on pages from Mein Kampf (brutality)Other examples?
9courageThe novel shows that ordinary people can show great courage and;There are many different ways of being a hero.It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flowing down their faces and they stagger on, coughing and searching and finding” (p570)Hans shows compassion and courage, and rebels against Hitler and the Nazis by hiding Max in his basement. However, Hans Jr calls him a coward.He is trying to uphold his beliefs and morals in a society where they are not tolerated and accepted: “Since 1933, 90% of Germans showed unflinching support for Adolf Hitler. That leaves 10% who didn’t. Hans Hubermann belonged to the 10%” p. 65Liesel stealing books and sticking up for herself at school, reading in the bomb shelter, bring gifts for Max.Who else shows courage in the novel?
10Words and booksWords can give people power and knowledge, and also take it away.Liesel is striving for knowledge at a time when ideas are being squashed: “she knew how powerless a person could be without words” – (Max, The Word Shaker p. 476)Hitler has ruled through words: “The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn't be any of this. Without words, the Führer was nothing.” – Liesel p. 553‘It was a nation of farmed thoughts…our Führer also planted seeds to create symbols.'(p 475) - Max's story suggests that Hitler's power lay in the words he plantedAt first, Liesel finds Hitler’s words soothing, though she doesn’t understand them. However, Liesel grows to understand how words are used to invoke and spread feelings of hatred during the war, and how powerful they can be (i.e. To the Nazi Party)
11Words and books Words allow humans to connect with each other. Liesel develops a bond with the Mayor’s wifePapa and Liesel read together and grow closerMax’s books “ The Word Shaker” and “The Standover Man”Words can save:Liesel finds solace and sanity in books she has stolen. Learning to read gives Liesel purpose: Papa, you saved me! You taught me how to read.”Hans was saved by Erik Vandenburg: “words and writing actually saved his life once” p. 67Max is saved through the delivery of “Mein Kampf” and through writing his own story for Liesel.Liesel lives because she is writing her story: “She was holding desperately on to the words that had saved her life” (p499)
12Words and books Words can cause damage: Liesel screams at Frau Hermann"What good are the words?“’(p.553)It is important to share your story:Max writes his story and Liesel’s story.Frau Hermann gives Liesel a blank book to record her story.“The words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them out like the clouds and she would wring them out like the rain” p. 85Zusak himself is writing so that we know the past.Words give comfort:Liesel reads aloud to calm everyone as they await the bomb raids- [find a quote and highlight.]Liesel reads aloud to Frau Holtzapfel.Liesel is comforted by reading with Papa after her nightmares
13RELATIONSHIPS Humans show love in different ways Rosa:“a woman with an iron fist”“She did love Liesel Meminger..her way of showing it just happened to be strange. It involved bashing her with wooden spoon and words..” p.35“I came and watched you and you were beautiful. God damn it, you were so beautiful, Mama” p. 571Hans: gains Liesel’s trust early on when she is suffering from nightmares every night “a stranger to kill the aloneness”. Teaches her to read; buys her books.Humans willingly make sacrifices for those they love.Alex SteinerRudy risks the freezing water to save Liesel’s bookMax leaves to save the Hubermanns
14Relationships continued Love and friendship are the greatest gifts one person can give another.Hans’ love helps Liesel to rebuild her life. His friendship with Erik Vandenberg leads him to save Max.Liesel and Max: Liesel watches over Max and helps him see the good of humanity:“Often I wish this would all be over, Liesel but then you go and do something like walk down the stairs with a snowman in your hands” p335This is symbolised in the objects that are given as gifts:Hans gives Liesel booksMax makes books for Liesel as a birthday present (The Standover Man)Liesel gives weather reports and small objects every day when he is sick in order to encourage him to fight for survival.Liesel finally gives Rudy the kiss he always wanted after he dies from the bombs in Himmel Street.
15GUILT Guilt often burdens those who survive when others leave or die. Hans feels guilt over being saved by Erik Vandenburg.Max’ guilt for leaving his family behind:‘To live. Living was living. The price was guilt, and shame.' (p 227)He also feels guilty for sleeping in Liesel’s room like a guest and moves into the basement: ‘How could be show up and ask people to risk their lives for him? How could he be so selfish?' (p 183)Rudy feels guilty for his father being drafted into the Nazi Party to fight in the warMichael Holtzapfel’s guilt at wanting to live while his brother is dead.Death observes: ‘I witness the ones who are left behind, crumbling amongst the jigsaw puzzle of realization, despair and surprise. They have punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs.' (p 5)
16Other Themes and Ideas? War is devastating and pointless. Humans’ capacity for hope is difficult to destroy.