Motif: A reoccurring theme
There are two main motifs in the novel, The Book Thief.
“Friendship” is the first of two motifs. Friendship plays a major role with all the characters. It starts at the beginning of the book where Liesel forms an instant friendship with Hans Hubermann and eventually Rosa Hubermann, her foster parents.This friendship teaches Liesel to love and trust again after her mother and brother die. Soon after she moves in with them, she becomes best friends with Rudy Steiner, her neighbor. Rudy and Liesel help each other every day as best friends do. Later in The Book Thief, Liesel becomes friends with Max, a Jew who is hiding in her basement. They share a love of reading and writing. Max eventually writes two books for Liesel to read. Liesel also reads to Max to see him through his illness. She also forms a bond with Frau Hermann, who has a library that Liesel reads in, and occasionally steals books from.
The second motif in The Book Thief is the “power of words”. The Book Thief emphasizes on the power of words. It illustrates that great good or harm can be caused by words, depending on the fashion in which they are used. For example, Hitler uses words to brainwash the German people and convince them that Jews are the source of all of their problems, and that putting them in concentration camps is the answer to their problems. Liesel uses words for good. A main example is when there is an air raid warning. Everyone is very apprehensive, so Liesel starts to read The Whistler, and everyone stops worrying so much. Words also save Liesel’s life when the bombs hit Himmel Street, because she is in the basement looking over her book when a bomb hits her house.
The main symbol in The Book Thief is “Death”. Death is found everywhere in The Book Thief. Death is the narrator of the entire book. On Liesel’s trip down to the Hubermann’s her brother dies and is taken away by Death. About mid-way through the book Micheal Holtzapelf, Frau Holtzapelf’s son hangs himself. Near the end of the book everyone Liesel knows dies, with the exceptions of Alex Steiner and Frau Hermann. In addition to all the direct mentions of Death, Death himself has two, “death’s diaries”, in which he explains a place and time that was filled with death. Finally, the setting is during World War and there are countless deaths of soldiers and civilians at every moment.