The Book Thief

The Book Thief

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The Accordion Symbol Analysis

The Accordion Symbol Icon
Hans Hubermann's accordion represents hope, safety, and creativity for Liesel. When she starts to read to the people of Himmel Street during the air raids, she feels like reading out loud is her version of playing the accordion. The accordion means music in spite of war, and entertainment and creativity in the face of suffering and death.

The Accordion Quotes in The Book Thief

The The Book Thief quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Accordion. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Death Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Alfred A. Knopf edition of The Book Thief published in 2007.
Part 7: The Sky Stealer Quotes

She didn't dare look up, but she could feel their frightened eyes hanging on to her as she hauled the words in and breathed them out. A voice played the notes inside her. This, it said, is your accordion.
The sound of the turning page carved them in half.
Liesel read on.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Liesel Meminger
Related Symbols: The Accordion
Page Number: 381
Explanation and Analysis:

During an air raid, the people of Himmel Street are gathered underground in the air raid shelter. In the frightened silence, Liesel reads a book aloud to comfort the people around her--just like Hans would play his accordion to comfort Liesel herself. Liesel has grown a great deal over the course of the novel: when we first met her, she was frightened and just beginning to learn how to read--now, though, she's mastered the art of reading, and by the same token, she's learned how to take care of herself and others.

The passage confirms the relationship between literature and wisdom. Learning to read isn't just a useful skill--it's a way for human beings to take control over their own lives and maintain a sense of peace and calm. Literature has a function similar to that of music: it calms people in their times of need--here, for instance, it calms others during the threat of a bombing.

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The Accordion Symbol Timeline in The Book Thief

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Accordion appears in The Book Thief. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Growing Up a Saumensch
Death Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
...ease. Death gives a few facts about Hans: he is a house painter, plays the accordion, and has already survived World War I. To most people he doesn't seem noticeable or... (full context)
Part 1: The Woman with the Iron Fist
Death Theme Icon
...the fact that he never leaves when she needs him. Some nights he plays the accordion for her, which cheers her up, but the noise annoys Rosa. For Liesel, the accordion... (full context)
Part 1: The Smell of Friendship
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
...a wooden bridge over the Amper River, where they practice reading and Hans plays the accordion. Liesel doesn't yet realize that the accordion has its own story for her Papa, but... (full context)
Part 2: Dead Letters
Death Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
...despairing, and Rosa apologizes to her. After a while Hans comes home and plays the accordion for her. Liesel's only memory of that night is darkness. She finally starts to accept... (full context)
Part 4: The Accordionist (The Secret Life of Hans Hubermann)
Death Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
Max stands in the kitchen and asks Hans if he still plays the accordion. Then Death brings the story back to World War I, when Hans was fighting in... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Hans kept Erik's accordion, as it was too heavy to be sent home. After the war he came to... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
...list, but was generally left alone because of his skill at painting and playing the accordion. Then one day Hans was on his way to a painting job when a man... (full context)
Part 4: The Swapping of Nightmares
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
...that Liesel is also a good reader and fist fighter, and then Hans plays the accordion for the first time in months. (full context)
Part 6: The Snowman
Death Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
...seem to ever get warm. By mid-February he collapses and hits his head on the accordion case. Rosa and Hans carry him to Liesel's room and put him to bed. Liesel... (full context)
Part 7: Champagne and Accordions
Death Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
...cigarettes or a cookie. Liesel goes with him, and Hans tells stories and plays the accordion. Liesel is happy during those days, and wishes they would never end. She especially likes... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
...never taste as good as it did that day. It is the same with the accordion – sometimes Liesel wants to learn to play, but she knows she could never play... (full context)
Part 7: The Sky Stealer
Death Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
...to her. Liesel realizes that reading out loud is like having and playing her own accordion. Even after the sirens signal that the raid is over, people stay to hear the... (full context)
Part 8: The Promise Keeper's Wife
Death Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
...get drunk at a bar. Hans gets up and plays a sad song on the accordion and everyone cheers. The next morning he is passed out and Rosa has to dump... (full context)
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
...Liesel wakes up and sees Rosa sitting at the foot of the bed with Hans's accordion strapped to her chest. She just sits silently in the moonlight without touching any of... (full context)
Part 9: The Ageless Brother
Death Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
...Max, and Hans all in the room. The next morning she watches Rosa hold the accordion and pray for everyone's safe return. (full context)
Part 10: Confessions
Death Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
...fetches Rosa and they all wait together. Hans returns and that night he plays the accordion, but the notes sound wrong. After that Liesel stays in bed for three days. (full context)
Part 10: The Rib-Cage Planes
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
...keeps writing. Sometimes she interjects the story with present actions, like describing Hans play the accordion, and how in some ways he is an accordion, breathing and moving and making music. (full context)
Part 10: The End of the World (Part II)
Death Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
...book with her, looking for Hans and Rosa and Max. Then she sees the broken accordion and starts to accept reality. She sees Rudy's body, and she drops her book and... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
...memories, and she truly breaks down at the sight of her Papa. She lays the accordion next to his body and imagines him standing and playing, and she thanks him for... (full context)
Epilogue: Wood in the Afternoon
Death Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
...only survivor of Himmel Street, and she is taken to the police clinging to Hans's accordion. Three hours later the mayor gets her in a car, and Liesel sits in the... (full context)