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

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Unintentionally, humans throw powerful words around not knowing how much of a big impact they can cause on an individual person or situation. “Words can hold [an] enormous weight, sometimes more than we [one may] think, they often impact people for decades, providing the courage to move on or another reason to give up” (Haytt). Some may believe that “actions speak better than words” however, words can have an immense feeling and impact on anyone or in any situation. In the novel The Book Thief, words are used to a point where they are very powerful. They have the ability to either create or strengthen relationships, as they did with Liesel Meminger and Max Vandenburg, Liesel Meminger and Hans Hubbermann and Liesel Meminger and Ilsa Hermann. Words can even overcome a set of individuals or an entire nation, this is demonstrated by Adolf Hitler taking over Germany by simply giving speeches. Powerful words also help overcome difficult situations as Markus Zusak clearly illustrated within the characters in the novel. During The Book Thief, Zusak clearly illustrates the impact of how powerful words can be.

Words create and strengthen relationships, just as Zusak demonstrates in The Book Thief. When Liesel Meminger first arrives at her foster parents’ house in Munich, she has very limited education, but she had a great ambition to learn to read. Liesel set her goal to learn to read right after her littler brother’s funeral. This is where she steals her first book called “The Grave Digger’s Handbook”. While trying to learn to read, Liesel started to develop a bond with her foster father, Hans Hubermann. Hans tried his best to improve her reading skills which also brought them closer together. Death, the narrator, had said “She was clearly proud of Hans Hubermann’s part in her education”(Zusak 64) which signifies that Liesel has pride in, and has become closer to Hans. Hans also did not have a great education but he still believed that he could improve Liesel’s reading skills. If Hans did not care about Liesel’s ambition to read they would not have gotten a good chance to bond and become closer. By reading together it allowed them to spend more time together.

Furthermore, apart from strengthening relationships, relationships are also created by the power of words, Max Vandenburg and Liesel’s unbreakable friendship also began with books. Max and Liesel often read together in the basement-while Max was in hiding-, starting up a conversation every so often. Books were often the main and common interest in their relationship. Max wrote a total of two books for Liesel, including “The Stand Over Man” and “The Word Shaker”. When Max wrote “The Word Shaker” he left a note for Liesel reading. “Liesel- I almost scribbled this story out. I thought you might be too old for such a tale, but maybe no one is. I thought of you and your books and words, and this strange story came into my head. I hope you can find some good in it” (Zusak 444). When Max found out that Liesel had a strong love for words and books, this drove him to write his own stories for Liesel. This is what formed the strong relationship surrounding words in all aspects.

Ilsa Hermann is also one whose relationship has been strengthened by words. When Ilsa witnessed Liesel stealing “The Shoulder Shrug” from the book burning on the Fuhrer’s birthday, she just then realized Liesel’s passion for books and then invited her into her personal library. Liesel was surprised when she found out that the library was owned by Ilsa.


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

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