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Hyperbole in The Book Thief

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In ''The Book Thief'' by Markus Zusak, hyperbole is combined with metaphor to describe the intensity of Liesel's experience as a young German girl who has been separated from her parents during World War II.

Dramatic Overstatements

Have you ever had a mountain of homework? Or died laughing? Hyperbole is an intentional exaggeration for dramatic effect. In The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, he commonly combines hyperbole with metaphors to describe the magnitude of the situation. Let's look at some examples of hyperbole from the novel.

Surviving Is Worse Than Death

The narrator, Death, describes survivors as being people with, '…punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs.' In this passage, the heart represents love and the lungs represent grief. Death recognizes that the people who have survived, but are grieving loved ones, are in much worse shape than those who have passed before them. Punctured hearts and beaten lungs describe the magnitude of the emotional wounds felt by those who are left behind by likening them to fatal physical wounds.

The Destruction of War

Death narrates about the time that he sees Liesel drop the book after the bombing. He uses hyperbole when he compares the landscape to a mountain. 'A mountain range of rubble was written, designed, erected around her.' Although it may not have been as big as a mountain, it created a big enough mess of concrete that she lost track of her book. Death, who has by this point developed a soft spot for Liesel, picks it up and keeps it for many years.

Nazis Are Monsters

When some Nazi soldiers come to Rudy's house to recruit Rudy to go to a special Nazi training school, Rudy's sister refers to them as monsters. 'In the words of Rudy's youngest sisters, there were two monsters sitting in the kitchen.' Monsters are typically abnormally large, scary, and unattractive. Rudy's sister uses this word to describe them because they want to take her brother away, but end up taking her father in exchange. In her mind, that is the scariest thing someone could do.

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