The Book Thief
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
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The Book Thief Theme of Mortality

Death, The Book Thief's narrator, keeps us constantly focused on mortality. To be clear, this Death has nothing to do with why people die. Rather, he's exists because people die. He has the task of separating their souls from their bodies and carrying those souls away. Death lets us know from the beginning pages that this is a tragic story. Set during World War II and the Holocaust, we witness the deaths of many innocent people. Death tells us that most of the characters we come to love will die by the end of the book. Who survives in the novel? That's the big surprise Death saves for the ending. We'd be remiss to give it away here. So, open up that book. And don't forget to look at the pictures!

Questions About Mortality

  1. What is Death like in this novel? Did he surprise you? Why or why not?
  2. Did Zusak make a good choice casting Death as a narrator?
  3. What do you think of Death's conception of dying? How does it compare with other ideas you have or have heard about?
  4. Will Death ever be able to take a vacation?

Chew on This

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

The novel makes the argument that dying is easier than living with the loss of a loved one.

The Book Thief is important in our understanding of the complexities of World War II because of its focus on mortality.

Next Page: Identity
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