The Book Thief

The Book Thief

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The Book Thief Part 5: The Gambler (A Seven-Sided Die) Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Death apologizes for spoiling the ending, but he says he has little interest in mystery. Now he needs to explain how that book (The Whistler) ended up in that river. He divides the chapter into sections headed by the numbers on a special die (1-7), which represents the gamble inherent in hiding a Jew in Nazi Germany.
Zusak uses another unorthodox storytelling device in this chapter by drawing out the sides of the die. This symbol of gambling emphasizes the risky crime the Hubermanns have committed by hiding Max – similar to but much more dire than the suspense Liesel feels when she steals a book.
Themes
Words and Language Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
The scene returns to the present, and Max is getting a haircut. Rosa and Hans argue about who will do it, but Max asks Liesel. She cuts his "feathery" hair and burns the evidence.
Even a seemingly everyday event like getting a haircut is potentially dangerous, if any evidence of Max's presence leaves the house.
Themes
Death Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
Later Liesel is in the mayor's library and she imagines confessing to Ilsa Hermann that there is a Jew in her basement. Ilsa offers her The Whistler again but Liesel refuses. On the way home she searches trashcans for newspapers with empty crosswords for Max. Liesel sits in the basement and reads while Max does the crosswords. They rarely speak, but they feel united by their love of words.
Like with Frau Hermann, Liesel builds her relationship with Max around books and language. Also like Frau Hermann, this relationship involves little actual talking – most of the words occur on a page, and the friendship is made up of actions more than conversation.
Themes
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
One day Liesel rushes into the house, boasting about the goals she scored in soccer, and then she goes down to the basement to tell Max. He asks her to describe the weather as well, and Liesel describes the sky in unintentionally poetic language. On the wall Max paints a picture of the sun and two stick figures, and underneath he writes Liesel's words.
Liesel acts like Death here, capturing the colors of the sky with poetic words, and Max acts like Death in drawing out images of the words. This is one of Death's examples of the beauty of humanity.
Themes
Words and Language Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
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Max has nothing but time and it seems a punishment just to stay alive. He starts exercising again, and then begins fantasizing about having a boxing match with Hitler. The crowd all supports the Führer, and they mock Max for being Jewish. The two start to fight, and at first Max lets Hitler beat on him. Then he gets up and punches Hitler on the moustache. Hitler stands, turns to the crowd, and gives a speech asking them to climb into the ring with him, as the Jewish enemy has corrupted everything. The whole country of Germany climbs into the ring and beats on Max. Last comes Liesel, and she hands him a crossword.
Another example of Hitler using words to gain power and incite hatred, even in Max's imagination. Hitler again becomes the personal face of evil and suffering. The daydream is symbolic of Max's plight – his own countrymen have turned against him, and he is alone in a nation that is his homeland but now also hates him. His only comfort is Liesel – her friendship and her words.
Themes
Words and Language Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
One day Liesel come downstairs and Max is doing push-ups. He tells her about his new daydream, and say he is training to fight Hitler. Liesel asks who wins the fight in Max's dream, and Max says that he does. Later Max rips out the rest of Mein Kampf and starts painting it white with Liesel, Hans, and Rosa, so he can start a new book. It will be called The Word Shaker.
Max's exercises and daydreams keep his spirit alive even in such hopeless conditions. The fights take place only in his mind, and he is only destroying Hitler's book, not Hitler himself, but it is these small actions that allow him to justify his existence to himself.
Themes
Death Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Death reveals that the die they have been rolling is actually seven-sided, and this last side is unlucky. In June of 1941, Germany invades the Soviet Union, and Liesel and Max see the mayor in the newspaper telling people to prepare for hard times. The next time Liesel is in the mayor's library, Ilsa Hermann is especially insistent that she take The Whistler, which Liesel finally accepts. Then Ilsa gives her a letter for Rosa, and Liesel realizes their last customer has canceled. She feels hurt and betrayed, even though Ilsa apologizes to her and says she can come back and read whenever she wants. Ilsa shepherds Liesel outside and shuts the door.
Frau Hermann is Rosa's last customer, so from an economic standpoint her cancellation is devastating. The Hubermanns were already poor before the war, and now they have an extra mouth to feed with Max. But for Liesel, this feels like more of a personal betrayal – she sees the wealth of the Hermanns compared to her own family's situation, but also Frau Hermann has represented a safe and comforting place for her that is now being take away.
Themes
Books Theme Icon
Liesel sits on the mayor's steps and reads the letter, getting very angry at the mayor and his wife. She starts to walk home, but then turns around and bangs on the mayor's door. Ilsa answers and Liesel yells at her, spitefully bringing up Ilsa's dead son and the mayor's wealth. She imagines her own dead brother standing next to her. Liesel throws down The Whistler, and then sees the damage her words have made on Ilsa's face. Ilsa backs away slowly and Liesel leaves, crumpling up the letter and throwing it at the door.
Liesel now takes the words she has learned and uses them for spiteful purposes – to cause suffering to Frau Hermann for her perceived betrayal. The Whistler becomes important as an object here, as Liesel rejects Ilsa's pity even in the form of a book. It is ironic that Liesel sees Werner appear even as she mocks Ilsa for never getting over her son's death.
Themes
Death Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
When she gets home Liesel feels guilty and pretends that Frau Hermann fired her because she insulted her, but Rosa doesn't believe her. Liesel then goes downstairs and asks Max to teach her to do push-ups. That night when Liesel reads with Hans she tells him that she thinks she is going to hell, but Hans assures her that she isn't.
Liesel again feels guilty for harming someone else, though she doesn't yet have the courage to apologize here. In this exchange she has learned some of Hitler's art – using words as weapons.
Themes
Words and Language Theme Icon