The Book Thief

The Book Thief


Markus Zusak

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Themes and Colors
Death Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Book Thief, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.


Death himself is the narrator of The Book Thief, and the setting is Nazi Germany during World War II, so there is a constant feeling of danger and suspense in the story. The narrator also reveals the fates of most of the characters beforehand, particularly the details of their deaths. This creates a different kind of suspense, where the reader knows some of the story's end but still wants to know how the characters…

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Words and Language

Markus Zusak constantly reminds the reader of the importance of language through his writing style. The disjointed narration, postmodern style (the starred, bold-faced interjections), and poetic phrasing emphasize the words used to tell the story, to the point that the reader is never allowed to sink unconsciously into the plot. There are also many reminders of language within the novel's action – Liesel and Hans write on the back of sandpaper, the newspaper becomes imprinted…

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Related to words and language is the theme of books, which begins even in the novel's title. Books as objects play major roles in the plot, and the story itself is divided among the different books Liesel steals or is given. The Nazi book-burning is a central plot point, and represents the suppression of free speech but also an acknowledgement of the power of books themselves – Hitler fears books that contradict his propaganda. Liesel…

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Stealing and Giving

In the setting of Nazi Germany, the idea of criminality is turned upside down – Hitler's laws require citizens to commit crimes against humanity, and when Liesel or Hans show kindness to Max (or any other Jew) they are harshly punished. The thievery of the novel's title also seems like less of a crime in the context of the story. When Liesel and Rudy steal books and food it is a small way of…

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Color, Beauty, and Ugliness

When he takes a soul, Death remembers the color of the sky to distract himself from his grim work. He begins the story with the colors of his three meetings with Liesel, the book thief – white, black, and red – and combines these to form the Nazi flag, which hangs over the story like the colors of the sky. Later Liesel acts similarly to Death in describing the sky to Max when he…

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