The Great Power of Words in The Book Thief, a Novel by Markus Zusak

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Throughout Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, the immense power of words is displayed. Numerous people of the time utilize these words to their own benefit or to manipulate others. Max Vandenburg, a Jewish boy on the move from the war, strives to not be captured and lives with the guilt of surviving. He makes use of words to comfort him and express his emotions. He also understands the strength of words and how potent they can be. Max Vandenburg is a survivor because he is resourceful, persevering and strong.

First, Max is resourceful by his imagination and optimistic views. He makes use of the debt owed by Hans Hubermann that resulted from the sacrifice of his father. When he joins the Hubermanns he is clever and makes sure Hans is still the same man his father knew by asking him “do you still play the accordion”(173), Max’s question for Hans assured him that Hans was a safe resource that he could use for his survival. Max finds entertainment in the simple things such as books and newspaper crosswords. Max is resourceful in developing pages for stories he makes by “cutting out a collection of pages from Mein Kampf and painting over them in white”(223). Doing this Max creatively makes pages for a story that he can exemplify his views of the world with. Max improvises a story and uses his individuality and power of words to optimize his resources.

Next, Max is persevering. Living with the guilt of leaving others behind, Max still has the spirit to move on and survive. Max had loved to fight with other boys; even when he was losing he refused to submit. We are told of a fight where Max, “with the heavy absorption of punches and punishment continues to move forward” (190). This demonstrates his personality of refusal to give up and move along. When Max is in a march of Jews, Liesel runs over to him and they are seen by a soldier. Max is whipped, knocked over and he “hoisted himself upright just like another push up on the cold basement floor”(514).

He continues to move on no matter what befalls him. Max knows others sacrificed their lives to get him where he is and he makes use of that thought as his inspiration to stay alive. Last, Max is strong. He is willing to fight for his life and trains consistently for his imaginary brawl with Hitler. “When death captures me,” the boy vowed, “he will feel my fist in his face”(189) this is young Max communicating his desire to live. This fighting spirit has a lot to do with his ultimate survival. When Death tells of the time Max fights Wenzel Gruber, they quarrel and are split up by teachers. As Max is being dragged away he “tastes his blood and it tastes good” (187). Max is tough to enjoy fighting and pain proving just how strong he can be. His strength is displayed through his foolish gallantry but this factor has also kept him alive.

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The Great Power of Words in The Book Thief, a Novel by Markus Zusak. (2023, May 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-great-power-of-words-in-the-book-thief-a-novel-by-markus-zusak/

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