The Book Thief Essay Mark Zusak’s novel, The Book Thief, was better than the film, as it dives deeper into the various perspectives and personalities of the characters. It builds up the character of Max, and the minor characters (such as the Holtzapfel family) build up the story. By reading this story, you learn about the themes of mortality and the power of words which aren’t as present in the film. Max, in the film, appears to be nothing more than another helpless and weak Jew. He is in hiding, he has to depend on others, he gets sick and he feels like a burden.
He is portrayed as such in the book as well, but the book also includes another side to him – the side that is strong and has love to fight for. You learn that from a young age, Max has always had a fighting spirit. When he was around 13, he was known as “the Jewish fist fighter,” a fist fighter who was determined to conquer. No matter what, he would never give in; not to his opponents, and especially not to death. “When death captures me,’ the boy vowed, she will feel my fist on his face,” (Zusak 189) When he becomes ill and bedridden, he does just this.
He fights off death. Even when facing the horrors of the Holocaust, he continues to fight. “In those days, they said the Jews preferred to simply stand and take things. [… ] Obviously, every Jew is not the same. ” (118) Max was not the same. He didn’t just accept what came to him. In the dark basement, hiding in fear, he would imagine himself going one on one against Hitler, fighting those who tried to bring him down. Simply by resisting and enduring, he was fighting against the Fuhrer.
Surviving the Holocaust was conquering Hitler and, essentially, death. And what was his reason for fighting so hard? Love. The movie hints at almost a romantic love, but that’s not the kind of love Max and Liesel share. It’s a familial one – they’ve become family. They provide the comfort in each other because they can relate and share their hardships; they’ve both lost loved ones from the war and suffer nightmares as a result. Max teaches Liesel to have an open mind and becomes her brother when she lost hers.
Liesel makes Max feel like he has a family again, she keeps him accompanied in the cold basement and keeps him connected to the world outside. Liesel fights for Max as much as Max fights for Liesel. They share such a close bond that it keeps Max motivated to continue fighting. “Often I wish this would all be over, but then somehow you do something like walk down the basement steps with a snowman in your hands. ” (313) In the movie, their relationship appears too rushed and too forced because of the screen time limit, so you don’t get to see the extent of their love for one another.
You don’t get to see Liesel desperately trying to find thirteen items to give to Max in hopes he’ll get better; you don’t get to see Max searching for Liesel in the crowd as he walks through the streets on his way to a concentration camp, and you don’t get to see them hug and cry when they do spot one another, when they are relieved yet scared. In the end, when they are reunited, you don’t see how happy they were, that they were so overwhelmed that they fell to the ground in tears. Because the movie only included the main characters, they left out many of the minor characters who make the book what it is.
Every individual character adds depth, adds dimension and adds realism to the Himmel Street neighbourhood as if they were your own neighbours. It isn’t just the street Liesel lives on; it becomes its own community that exists beyond her story. When you get these characters’ different perspectives, it gives you an insight into the mind of the Germans, the Jews, and even death himself. When you read about their thoughts and decisions, in a way, it also humanizes them. Frau Holtzapfel and her sons do not make an appearance in the movie.
While they play a minor part in the book, the contribution of these characters makes the ending much more impactful. It gives you a small glimpse into the life of a normal German family torn apart by the war. The Holtzapfels: Two sons – one who died at war and another who died from survivor’s guilt – and a mother who has now just lost both her sons in under 6 months. “According to the book thief, Frau Holtzapfel hugged the body for nearly an hour. ” (505) The Hubermanns are another family torn by the German war.
Hans Junior was not included in the movie, but without him, you don’t get to see the dynamics of this family. “The young man was a Nazi; his father was not. ” (104) It demonstrates that not everybody has the same views, and politics can change relationships between anybody. Another character, or narrator, per se, that the movie doesn’t feature as often is death. He is the source of an unbiased view on humans because his reason for loving them doesn’t stem from the bias of being human. He, as an observer, loves humans simply because of the way they are.
In the movie, it becomes biased when you forget that he is narrating, as you instead experience the story through Liesel’s perspective. In the book, you are constantly reminded that he is there. It’s better because death and reader, quite frankly, share similar views. They both attempt to learn about the stories of each character, to try and understand and decipher them through their ugliness and through their glory. You learn to love the characters not for their political views, but for just being human.
And unlike a traditional third-person narrator, death has emotions – he feels sadness, he feels joy, and he gets tired of his job just like any ordinary person. His job even makes him break down every now and then, especially when faced with the death of innocent children like Rudy. “He steps on my heart. He makes me cry. ” (531) He doesn’t want people to die, but he can’t spare anyone. He does not have control over how people die, he is just what happens when you do. “I am a result. ” (6) That is what differentiates death from a regular human, and that is why he still tries to understand them.
When you learn more about death and about the way he observes and studies people, it gives more meaning to the phrase, “I am haunted by humans. ” (550) Because he studies them, you study them, and you learn to love the characters as much as him. “Here is a fun fact: You are going to die. ” (3) Death is not only a narrator; he is a theme in the book as well. Without him being apparent in the movie, you lose the meaning behind that theme. Unlike in the movie, death constantly reminds you to be aware of the characters’ mortality. In the very first scene of the book, somebody dies.
It’s because death is just a normal part of being human. It’s not something to fear and it’s not something to celebrate either; death is just an event that will occur and we’ll all have to face that reality at some point in our lives. Death is just a part of you. “You want to know what I truly look like? I’ll help you out. Find yourself a mirror while I continue. ” (307) It’s something to mourn over, but you eventually come to terms with it and remember the people for who they were and not for what happened to them. In the end, this message helps Liesel cope and grow, and the readers learn from this as well.
Because we are aware of the deaths to come, it doesn’t become a tragedy like in the movie. It was something that was sad, but you remembered the story for the characters and not for the sorrow you felt. Watching the movie erases this message of the “power of words”, whereas reading the book is an example of its own meaningful message. It talks about more than just Liesel’s story; it portrays a deeper message — that words have power. They have the power to spread hate or to spread love. When Liesel was illiterate, she claimed to have loved the Fuhrer.
This changes when Liesel learns to read; she asks to read Mein Kampf, a book about Nazi propaganda, and Max notes how “that would be like the lamb handing a knife to the butcher. ” (221) She instead learns about the Nazism elsewhere and realizes that Hitler’s words may have very well killed her own parents, her own brother, and even possibly Max. “Without words, the Fuhrer was nothing. ” (521) Max writes over the pages in the propaganda book and instead creates The Word Shaker, a story about a little girl who is able to stand up against the Hitler’s brainwashing and instead spreads love with her words.
It empowers Liesel; it shows her that words can also be used to help others. In the raid shelter, when everyone is cowering under the floorboards, she reads to them. She even continues to read to Frau Holtzapfel when she is lonely. The Fuhrer’s words spread fear, but Liesel’s bring peace – love. Liesel writes in the journal (given to her by Ilsa Hermann), “I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. ” (528) Liesel learns that words can manipulate the situation for control or for comfort, and she chooses to write for comfort and for her love of others.
When you read the book, you carry this message even when it’s over. When you watch the movie, the message ends when the film ends. The movie was not as compelling as the book due to its lack of character development. It fails to expand on the strength of the character of Max, and it doesn’t include the perspectives of the minor characters who help shape the story. By watching The Book Thief instead of reading it, you lose the important ideas of mortality and of the power of words. “I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. ” (528)