Copyright

The Book Thief Themes

Instructor: Chelsea Schuyler
Themes run throughout a story and connect events and ideas together. In ''The Book Thief'', there are a few major themes that stand out as the underlying messages of the story's plot.

What is Theme?

In every story, there are themes, which are underlying messages of the story that a reader puts together like a puzzle. Themes are often presented in a way that allows people to get different shades of meaning from them, depending on the perspective the reader brings to the book.

An author won't come out and tell you exactly what the themes of a story are; a reader needs to piece them together as they read. Let's see if the following themes in The Book Thief match up to the ones you came up with as you read!

Literacy and Power

While language initially is a struggle for the main character Liesel, it becomes one that empowers her and allows her to quietly rebel against Hitler's regime. Liesel's mother was too poor to educate her properly, and as a result, she couldn't read well, a fact that becomes well-known to Liesel's schoolmates. They taunt her for her inability to read.

However, through lessons with her foster father, Hans, she learns to write on the backs of sandpaper. And when they run out of sheets of sandpaper, Liesel, Hans, and Max - a Jew hiding in the Hubermanns' house - begin painting words on basement walls.

Max also paints over the pages of Mein Kampf - Hitler's autobiography and his outline of plans for the Nazi Party. Through the process of writing his story over Hitler's, Max is bringing a silent revenge against Hitler.

Because books were banned by the Nazi Party, Liesel's ability to read her own collection, Ilsa Hermann's personal library, and the books Liesel steals -including the one from the Nazi bonfire - gives her a quiet power over Hitler. Liesel can read and write what she wants - secretly, of course - and it gives her some control over a life she has had little control over.

Liesel understood the power of words.
antique book

Love and Hate in Human Nature

There is a clear juxtaposition during Hitler's reign - one that shows the best of human nature and the absolute worst. During a time where Hitler's beliefs created bullies, large and small, readers are able to see examples of people who resisted the culture of the time and remained good, kind people.

The worst in people trickles down from the Hitler's SS Army when they stripped Jews and other 'enemies' of the state of civil rights, often taking them away to camps. Readers see the beginnings of this thinking in the teenaged bullies Viktor Chemell and Franz Deutcher and their cruel treatment of Liesel's friend, Rudy.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support