Personification in The Book Thief

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  • 0:03 Brief Summary of 'The…
  • 0:40 Defining Personification
  • 1:03 Personification in…
  • 2:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rachel Noorda
This lesson discusses personification, giving human characteristics to non-human objects, in 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak. We will discuss specific personification examples from the book, including the personification of death as the narrator of the story, which is central to 'The Book Thief'.

Brief Summary of The Book Thief

The Book Thief is a novel by Markus Zusak. It is a story told from the perspective of Death. Death watches the life of one particular girl living in Germany: Liesel Meminger. Liesel lives during World War II and she sees a lot of death. First, her brother dies and then her mother gives her up to be taken care of by the Hubermanns. Liesel steals books and learns many things from those books after she learns to read from her foster father. A bombing eventually kills most of Liesel's loved ones, including her best friend and her foster parents.

Defining Personification

Personification is giving human characteristics to non-human objects. The purpose of personification is to connect the reader to the object. Readers are better able to connect with human characters and things with human characteristics than with non-human objects. So how does a writer get a reader to connect with non-human objects in the story? Personify them.

Personification in The Book Thief

There are many examples of personification in The Book Thief but the most prominent, and important, example is personifying death. One of the unique features of The Book Thief is that the narrator is Death. Now death is a concept, not a person. But in The Book Thief, Death has human characteristics.

After Rudy dies, it is described as Death 'taking' him. But Death, as the narrator, expresses sadness that Rudy died so young. Death finally says, 'Even Death has a heart'. Death does not really have a heart, but as personified in The Book Thief, the character of Death certainly does.

There are other examples of personification in the The Book Thief as well.

'Trees wore blankets of ice.'

Trees, as inanimate objects, do not wear clothes like humans do, yet in The Book Thief, the trees were described as wearing blankets of ice. This description shows that there was a lot of ice on the trees, so much ice that it enveloped the trees like clothes.

'White snow stood at the window.'

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