The Book Thief

The Book Thief

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The Book Thief Part 5: Three Acts of Stupidity by Rudy Steiner Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Death lists the three stupid acts and then goes on to describe them. The first involves Rudy stealing a potato from a grocer's, but he steals the largest potato so several people in line have been watching it, and they see him do it. The grocer becomes enraged and threatens to call the police until Rudy enlists one of his schoolteachers (who is also in line) to exaggerate how big and poor Rudy's family is. The grocer kicks Rudy out and he feels like a failure once more.
This chapter describes smaller, comic instances of Rudy's unluckiness. Now that the reader knows of his ultimate demise, however, these little moments seem all the more tragic. Rudy fails again at stealing something – and he had been trying to steal to cheer himself up from his failures at Hitler Youth.
Themes
Death Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
Rudy's second mistake begins with him taunting Franz Deutscher at a Hitler Youth meeting, as Rudy pretends to not know Hitler's birthday. A few days later Rudy sees Deutscher walking on Munich Street and Rudy throws a rock at him. Liesel is there too, and she has to watch Deutscher and some other older boys beat up Rudy. Deutscher then takes out his pocketknife and cuts off Rudy's hair, reciting Hitler's birthday as he does.
Rudy has an unfocused anger at the world's injustices just like Liesel (beating up Ludwig Schmeikl) or Max (boxing), and he also lashes out foolishly with it. Rudy is just masochistically tormenting his tormenter, but he is being politically subversive at the same time by mocking Hitler and the Hitler Youth.
Themes
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
Rudy's last mistake is skipping the Hitler Youth meetings altogether. After a few more weeks of having to endure Franz Deutscher, he and Tommy Müller stop going. When Rudy's parents find out, they threaten and beg him but he still won't go. They finally convince Rudy to join a different division where they build model airplanes. This third mistake actually ends up working out better for Rudy, as he likes his new group.
Again Rudy's youthful angst is unwittingly political in nature, which his parents understand – his failure to attend Hitler Youth could lead them to being fined or arrested. One of the great ironies of Rudy's character is that he seems like the "ideal German" – blonde, blue-eyed, and a great scholar and athlete, but he hates Hitler Youth and the Nazi mentality.
Themes
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon