The Book Thief

The Book Thief

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The Book Thief Part 3: The Mayor's Library Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Liesel worries about delivering the washing to the mayor's wife, and wonders what kind of punishment she will receive for stealing. At first she pretends that no one is home at the mayor's house, but Rosa makes her go back. Rudy accompanies Liesel, confused at her hesitation. Finally she knocks, dreading what is to come, but Frau Hermann appears and silently pays her, as if nothing had changed. Liesel is relieved, and thinks that maybe Frau Hermann didn't see her stealing after all (though Death assures the reader this is not the case).
Liesel childishly tries to avoid punishment, not understanding the potential implications of her actions. Frau Hermann continues to be a mystifying figure. The reader shares Liesel's relief at escaping punishment for now, but Death again undercuts the happiness with a foreboding future.
Themes
Death Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
The next time Liesel goes without Rudy, though, and Frau Hermann makes her wait. Then she returns with a stack of books, and Liesel is suddenly terrified, but she can't help following the mayor's wife into the house. Frau Hermann leads her to a huge library. Liesel is ecstatic at the beauty of seeing so many books at once. She asks Frau Hermann if she can enter, and Frau Hermann nods, still unspeaking. Liesel happily touches the books, one by one, feeling their magic through the spines. She notices that the window is open, letting in the cold, but she doesn't close it. Frau Hermann smiles at her.
This is one of Liesel's most important moments. Before this, Liesel has only seen books as random objects to be stolen or given, but now she sees this special luxury of having hundreds of books all organized and safe. She immediately goes to touch them, again associating their physicality with the language within them. This library will become like Hans's presence to Liesel – a safe place, but also a place of expanding horizons and imagination.
Themes
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Liesel takes the washing and leaves, but then feels guilty and rude for not thanking Frau Hermann. She returns and the mayor answers the door, terrifying Liesel, but then Frau Hermann appears behind him, and Liesel thanks her. Liesel leaves, still smiling.
Liesel's conscience begins to interject itself into her actions – she is learning from Hans to do the right thing, even when it is the hard thing.
Themes
Books Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon