Study Guide

The Book Thief Mortality

By Markus Zusak

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Chapter 1

I'm nothing if not fair. (1.8)

Death won't take you before you're body is dead. No matter what you did or didn't do in life, this Death will treat you just like he does everybody else.

[…] at some point on time I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away. (1.12)

See. Death is saying this to all of us. He doesn't discriminate. His vision of the moment after Death is rather comforting. But, do you think it's plausible? Why or why not?

You are going to die. (1.6)

Death presents dying as a unifier, the one thing that ties all humans together.

Chapter 2

I am a result. (2.3)

This is an important aspect of Zusak's Death. He doesn't cause death, but, rather, exists because people die. He doesn't want people to die. It just means more work for him, and he would prefer to be sunning it up on a tropical island sipping strawberry daiquiris.

Chapter 5

With one eye open, one still in a dream, the book thief, also known as Liesel Meminger could see […] that her younger brother, Werner, was now sideways and dead. His blue eyes stared at the floor. Seeing nothing. (5.21-5.22)

This image of her dying brother will haunt Liesel for many years and come to her every night as she sleeps. It's a very traumatic experience that shapes her life in many ways.

Chapter 10

Then he read the title, with concentration, aloud: "The Grave Digger's Handbook." (10.17)

All the references to Liesel's first book cast a spooky, morbid cast over the novel. It's a great way to highlight the theme of death and book stealing in one fell swoop.

Chapter 37

He'd have been glad to witness her kissing his dusty, bomb hit lips. (37.11)

One of the saddest parts of the novel is when Liesel misses out on kissing Rudy when he's alive, and kisses him instead when he's dead.

Chapter 52

Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born. […] I listened to their last, gasping cries. Their vanishing words. I watched their love visions and freed them from their fear. (52.15)

This is a good one. This makes dying sound not half bad. But, the big mystery is, where does Death take us after all this gentleness? For some clues, see the novel's final chapter.

For me, the sky was the color of Jews. (52.3)

This is to accentuate the number of Jewish people dying during the Holocaust, in Germany, and other locations in Europe. Normally, Death sees colors like, black, white, blue, etc. But, during these times, there were so many Jews being murdered, that they overshadow the other colors as Death takes them across the sky.

Chapter 70

It kills me sometimes, how people die. (70.7)

Death can get just a tad sarcastic, especially when people he doesn't approve of die. This is his comment on Reinhold Zucker, the man who dies after forcing Hans to swap seats with him, and thus, unwittingly, saving Hans' life.

Chapter 87

They hugged and cried and fell on the floor. (87.4)

We quote this passage to show you those who didn't die – Liesel and Max. Were you surprised when Max walks through the door of Alex Steiner's tailor shop? If not, how did you see it coming?

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