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

You'll notice suffering from page one of The Book Thief. Cold, hunger, emotional and physical abuse, guilt, the horror of the battlefield – all these play heavily into the suffering of the characters. Set primarily in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, suffering is the rule, not the exception. The novel doesn't enter the concentration camps and focus on the immense sufferings occurring there. Instead, these camps are a dark shadow coloring everything in horror and fear. Suffering and guilt over the loss of loved ones is also a major focus in The Book Thief.

Questions About Suffering

  1. What are the various forms of suffering we encounter in the novel? Have you experienced any of these?
  2. If a reader doesn't know much about the Holocaust, does the novel adequately express the suffering Jews experienced during the Holocaust? Why or why not?
  3. Is guilt connected to suffering in The Book Thief? Why or why not?
  4. What are some sites of intense suffering in the novel?
  5. How do the main characters cope with suffering?

Chew on This

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

Learning to comfort and aid those who are suffering is a big part of Liesel's development as a person.

The novel argues that trying to ease suffering is the noblest of causes.

Next Page: Courage
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