The Book Thief

The Book Thief

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The Book Thief Prologue: The Flag Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Death thinks of the color red for his last encounter with the book thief. Bombs have fallen on a town and the streets are bloody and the sky is red. Ash falls like burning snow. The book thief crouches next to a pile of rubble, holding a book. Death watches as she drops the book and starts to scream. Then the scene changes – the book gets thrown away when the wreckage is cleaned up, but Death rescues it from a garbage truck.
The historical setting of the book (Nazi Germany, during World War II) and this foreshadowed scene assure the reader that tragedy is surely coming. The interesting part will be how the characters arrive there. A first book is introduced. Books as objects will be very important.
Themes
Death Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
Death associates the book thief with a full spectrum of colors, but mostly with the colors of the three times he saw her: white, black, and red. Death draws them coming together to form an image of the Nazi flag. Death has a few stories that he keeps because they help him believe that human lives are worth living. The story of the book thief is one of these.
A sort of thesis for the novel – if it is inevitable that everyone will die eventually, then why keep trying and hoping? Death keeps stories that prove the value of human existence – it is the power of language and art that helps him keep believing. The Nazi flag will hang over the story's action like the colors of the sky.
Themes
Death Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon