The Book Thief

The Book Thief

The Book Thief Part 4: The Swapping of Nightmares Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Max sleeps in the cold basement after that, and is embarrassed that he slept in Liesel's room. He feels that he deserves only table scraps, but Rosa promises to feed him, and they make him a bed in the basement hidden behind some paint cans and drop sheets. Max feels guilty for imposing his dangerous presence on them, but he can't help his own will to live, so he stays.
Again Max feels guilty just for existing, and wants to be as little trouble as possible to the family. He is able to understand his own feelings of guilt and the danger he has brought to the Hubermanns, but he can't help wanting to keep living.
Themes
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Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
The Hubermanns make Liesel visit the basement, and she nervously starts to ask if Mein Kampf is a good book, but then leaves. She overhears her foster parents saying that everything has to stay exactly the same as before, or else it will look suspicious. Liesel is most shocked by Rosa and how good she is at dealing with such a crisis. Another customer cancels, but Liesel keeps hanging out with Rudy and reading in mayor's library. She is especially drawn to one book called The Whistler, which is about a murderer.
Other than the nightmares, Liesel's connection to Max stems from the fact that he has a book. Liesel doesn't know about Mein Kampf or its significance – she just wants to talk about books. The mayor's library becomes an even more important shelter now that Liesel's home life has become so suspenseful.
Themes
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Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
One night Hans wants to start up their reading practice of The Shoulder Shrug again, but Liesel is nervous about going into the basement. They finally go down, and Hans sees that Max is freezing and emaciated. He makes Max come upstairs and take a hot bath. The Hubermanns decide that Max will sleep upstairs and then return to the basement during the day, and they start to form a routine. Christmas arrives and Trudy comes home, but they don't tell her about Max and she doesn't notice anything.
Liesel warms up slowly, but eventually accepts Max's presence. This acceptance is assisted by her reading lessons in the basement – along with Liesel's questions about Mein Kampf, their relationship already centers around books and words. Max joins the family just like Liesel did. This is another example of stealing and giving – the Hubermanns's kindness is criminal.
Themes
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Books Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
One night Max overhears Liesel telling Hans that Max's hair is "like feathers." Later she asks about Mein Kampf, and Max tells the story of how it saved his life. He begins to tell his story, piece by piece, over the course of many nights. Hans tells Max that Liesel is also a good reader and fist fighter, and then Hans plays the accordion for the first time in months.
Liesel's unwittingly poetic words mark a turning point in her friendship with Max and will inspire him later. Their closeness grows as Max talks about his book (and the irony that Mein Kampf should save a Jew's life) and his past – words of friendship.
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Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
Get the entire The Book Thief LitChart as a printable PDF.
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Hans tells Liesel that Max has nightmares like she does, and one night Liesel gets out of bed and they trade stories: Liesel dreams about Werner, and Max dreams about leaving his family behind. After that Liesel tells Hans she can deal with her nightmares alone. Liesel starts to recognize that the world inside the house and outside of it are very different.
Much of Liesel's growth comes from understanding that others suffer like she does, and sharing that suffering through language and art. Liesel begins to understand the double life necessary for one to maintain one's moral humanity in Nazi Germany.
Themes
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Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
In February of 1941 Liesel turns twelve, and the Hubermanns give her a book called The Mud Men. Max apologizes that he doesn't have a present for her. Liesel hugs Hans and Rosa, and then embraces Max for the first time.
The idea of giving is expanded here – Liesel gets a physical gift (a book, of course) but she gives a much more important gift to Max – kindly human contact, and a symbol of acceptance into the family.
Themes
Books Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon