Discuss the use of symbolism in the novel and how it contributes to meaning.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a unique narrative in which symbolism is embraced often to communicate ideas. Death is used to narrate the story of Liesel Meminger, a young German girl living in the time of World War Two. Liesel is nicknamed “the book thief” by Death due to her tendency to steal books when a chance shows itself. During the course of the novel the reader is taken along Liesel’s journey as the stealer of books, as she matures and begin to discover the wrong in Hitler’s Germany. Elements such as Death narrating, colour, books, and paint, collectively give The Book Thief diverse meaning through the use of symbolism.
Zusak cleverly uses Death to tell Liesel’s story, which is symbolic in its self. This character Zusak creates is more than just the stereotypical grim reaper. Death begins the story by telling the reader his outlook on existence, “First the colours. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things.”(Page 3) Automatically the reader knows Death is not human and his openness on the subject ironically gives him a human-like demeanour. He talks directly to the reader, including them in the story, and using a vast vocabulary full of metaphors and similes; he describes each defining event eloquently. Zusak may have been hinting that Death is a superior species, which makes sense seeing as Death has seen all sides of life and he is presumably immortal making him an almost omniscient god-like figure. He is not cruel or disrespectful whilst doing his job, in fact he resents what he has to do. He juxtaposes previous fanciful notions of Death’s identity; the skeletal cloaked man carrying a scythe. Zusak leaves Death’s appearance open to the reader’s imagination. So in The Book Thief, Death can be interpreted as a symbol of hope for a better after life or alternatively an omen of death that has yet to come.
The colours seen by Death change for different events or...