The Book Thief

The Book Thief

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The Book Thief Part 1: The Other Side of Sandpaper Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Death then describes a similarly defining incident for Liesel. One day in May there is a big parade of the Nazi Party, and everyone stands on the street and watches. Death explains that most people support the Nazis at this time, but Hans Hubermann does not.
Hans is again presented as a positive figure, but his very humanity will create problems for him under Hitler's regime. In this society the idea of criminality and goodness will be turned upside down.
Themes
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
That night Liesel wakes up screaming as usual, but this time she realizes she has wet the bed too. Hans kindly takes off the sheets and then sees The Grave Digger's Handbook under the mattress. Liesel did not even know what it was called, but she says she wants to learn to read it. Hans decides to teach her. Death remarks on how lucky it was that Hans found the book first instead of Rosa, and how he will end up teaching Liesel more than school does.
Death remarks on how fortuitous this accident is, and it will indeed begin the overarching plot and theme of the novel. Liesel is already attached to her book as a link to her mother and brother, but now she wants to explore it further. She is also motivated to read by her shame at being put with the young kids in school.
Themes
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
They start learning that same night. First Hans admits that he is not a very good reader, and he asks where Liesel got the book, but he doesn't mind that she took it. He starts to read and realizes the text is difficult and morbid, but Liesel insists she must start with The Grave Digger's Handbook. At first she pretends to know more than she does, but Hans soon realizes she cannot read at all.
There is nothing too dramatic in Liesel's first reading lessons, though Death foreshadows how important books and words will become to her later. The fact that she is learning from this book which is already special to her implies that reading itself will become something vital.
Themes
Death Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
They start over and Hans writes out the alphabet on the back of some sandpaper. Liesel practices, and gets stuck on "S" until she thinks of saumensch. Hans draws a stick figure of Liesel, which Death recreates. They say goodnight and Liesel lies awake, thinking of words.
"Saumensch" returns in a different form yet again. Words often take on physical form in the novel – in the form of books, of course, but here also on the back of sandpaper, a gritty material thing.
Themes
Words and Language Theme Icon
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