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Themes

The Book Thief might challenge our ideas about crime and criminality. What if the laws of the land require its citizens to commit crimes against humanity? That's what's going on in Nazi Germany during most of the novel. Our main characters decide to err on the side of kindness and love, regardless of what the laws say. Liesel's stealing of books and her and Rudy's other adventures in thievery could be seen as symbolic of the way everything is topsy-turvy in this society. One must steal and break the law in order to maintain a basic positive humanity. These courageous characters risk everything, day and day again, to resist unjust laws.

Questions About Criminality

  1. Is it wrong for Rudy and Liesel to steal food? Why, or why not?
  2. Would Liesel have stolen from Ilsa Hermann if she was actually afraid of her?
  3. How does the idea of book thievery shape the novel?
  4. Based on what you've read in The Book Thief, is breaking the law ever justified?
  5. Are there any unjust laws where you live? If so, what are they and why are they unjust? What can you do about it?
  6. Have you ever felt like a criminal? If so, why? Did you deserve to feel that way, or not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The Book Thief does a good job of showing how laws can be used to commit crimes.

Liesel's book stealing is justified because she uses the books to help herself and others.

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