Part 5: Sketches
The Book Thief Part 5: The Whistler and the Shoes Summary & Analysis
Part 5: Three Acts of Stupidity by Rudy Steiner
Max, Liesel, and Rudy continue their respective activities into the fall, but change comes when Franz Deutscher makes Rudy do push-ups in a manure-covered field. Rudy comes home filthy and tells Liesel he needs "a win" – they need to steal something. At first they don't have any ideas, but then Liesel decides to take Rudy to the mayor's house to get revenge for them firing Rosa. Liesel expects the window to be open, but it is closed that day.
Their experiences up to now have led both Rudy and Liesel to consider thievery as a positive act – to them it means taking control of some small part of their mad, uncontrollable worlds. Stealing is not a crime to them as much as an act of self-empowerment.
On their fifth visit the window is open, and Liesel decides to go in. Rudy thinks they are trying to steal food, but Liesel secretly just wants The Whistler. Stealing it feels more like earning it than having Frau Hermann give it to her out of pity. Liesel decides she will go in alone, and she gives Rudy her shoes. Rudy reminds her to get food, but Liesel hardly listens.
Liesel wants to steal the book that Frau Hermann had offered to her, because stealing it feels more like "earning" it. Liesel feels like a charity case if Ilsa gives her the book out of pity, but stealing it involves Liesel giving herself agency.
Liesel goes through the window and looks for The Whistler. Rudy sees a light go on in the house and warns her, and Liesel grabs The Whistler and runs. They run around a corner and pause, and Rudy is confused by the book, but he immediately senses that Liesel never intended to steal any food. Liesel then realizes that Rudy left her shoes by the house. Rudy curses himself and goes back to fetch them. He returns after a while, and halfheartedly asks for a kiss, which Liesel refuses as usual.
Here Liesel fully assumes the role of the book thief. She doesn't seem to feel a special bitterness toward Frau Hermann anymore, but instead wants The Whistler to prove something to herself. Rudy leaving Liesel's shoe behind is his first instance of leaving something behind when he intends to be stealing something instead – this will happen again.
On their way home Liesel describes The Whistler and defends Rosa when Rudy implies she might get angry at Liesel. They reminisce about their times with Arthur Berg, and when they say goodnight Rudy calls Liesel "book thief." She likes the title and takes it as her own.
It is important that Liesel thinks of herself as "the book thief" now, as she will act (subconsciously or not) to fill this role from now on – words are important, and Death takes this title to describe Liesel as well.