The Book Thief

The Book Thief

The Book Thief Part 4: Pages from the Basement Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
For a week the Hubermanns keep Liesel from going to the basement by giving her chores or making excuses. During that time Max cuts out some pages from Mein Kampf and paints them white. When they dry he writes a story called The Standover Man for Liesel, inspired by her words about his hair like feathers.
Max's copy of Mein Kampf becomes an important symbol here – an example of words of hatred being overcome by words of love, and art overcoming suffering. Hitler's story is replaced by Max's – he is just as important.
Themes
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
The Standover Man has both words and pictures, and Death recreates it exactly in the text. In his book Max is a bird, the story is about all the people that have stood over him during his life, ending with Liesel watching him sleep, and then the two trading dreams and becoming friends. The last page is a picture of the basement, with the words painted on the wall next to a framed picture of Max the bird embracing Liesel.
Zusak adds another unconventional element here by recreating the drawings and handwriting of the story – another reminder of the physicality of the words on the pages themselves. Max as a bird shows how he is transformed in the eyes of a friend into something more beautiful.
Themes
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
Max enters silently one early morning and delivers the book as a late birthday present. Liesel wakes up later and read it, and thinks about the words of Mein Kampf suffocating underneath Max's story. She goes downstairs to thank Max, but he is asleep. She sits with him and puts her hand on his shoulder.
Liesel imagines Hitler's words as personified beings, gagging under Max's creative, compassionate story. Liesel now assumes Hans's role of staying with someone through their troubled sleep.
Themes
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon