The Book Thief

The Book Thief


Markus Zusak

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Book Thief can help.

Everything you need
for every book you read.

"Sooo much more helpful than SparkNotes. The way the content is organized
and presented is seamlessly smooth, innovative, and comprehensive."
Get LitCharts A+

The Book Thief: Prologue: Beside the Railway Line Summary & Analysis

Death associates his first encounter with the book thief with the color white. The scene occurs next to a train track, and everything is covered in snow. There is a mother, a girl, and the corpse of a little boy outside in the snow, next to a stopped train. Two angry guards make them carry the body back onto the train and keep going.
Death outlines the story before he begins to tell it – there is a lot of foreshadowing in the novel, which resonates with looming Death himself. This also creates a different kind of suspense for the reader, as they wonder not about what happens but rather how the scene arrives to the foreshadowed conclusion.
Death Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
Death explains that he made a mistake and allowed himself to become interested in the girl. When the family leaves the train Death takes away the boy's soul, but then he hesitates and watches the book thief (the little girl), whose tears are frozen to her face.
This scene establishes the "specialness" of the book thief, as Death takes an immediate interest in her. The introduction of the scene with "whiteness" begins the theme of associating moments with colors.
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon