Study Guide

The Book Thief Suffering

By Markus Zusak

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Chapter 1

I witness the ones that are left behind, crumbled among the jigsaw puzzles of realization, despair, and surprise. They have punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs. (1.22)

From Death's point of view, living with the loss of a loved one is much worse than dying.

Chapter 5

There was a chaos of goodbye. (5.83)

This tiny sentence helps us feel Liesel's utter dismay at being forced to leave her mother on the same day she buries her brother.

Still in disbelief, she started to dig. He couldn't be dead. He couldn't be dead. He couldn't – (5.60)

The death of Liesel's brother causes her great suffering. It also seems to create empathy and prepares her to understand Max's suffering.

Chapter 7

Every night, Liesel would nightmare. (7.2)

These nightmares are bitter-sweet kind of suffering. They terrify her. She can't control them. But, they bring her just a little closer to her dead brother. A major turning point for Liesel is when she lets go of the nightmares and learns to carry Werner in her heart and memory.

Chapter 8

The road of yellow stars. (8.43)

This refers to the now abandoned and forlorn Jewish section of Molching. If Liesel had arrived in Molching sooner, she would have witnessed the suffering of its previous residents as they were abused and then forcibly removed from their homes.

Chapter 28

How could he show up and ask people to risk their lives for him? How could he be so selfish? (28.21)

Much of Max's psychological suffering involves guilt. As we note in the theme of "Criminality," Max can't take a non-criminal step, so long as he's in Germany. Plus, anyone who he makes contact with is an instant criminal. This takes an enormous toll on his psyche.

Chapter 33

The man did not breathe. He did not move. Yet, somehow, he traveled from the doorway to the bed and was under the covers. (33.13)

The passage does a lot to highlight Max's suffering. Two years hiding in dark sheds has made him an expert at the art of pretending not to exist.

Chapter 35

To live. Living was living. The price was guilt and shame. (35.19-21)

This theme is repeated over and over in the novel, by anyone who survives. Michael Holtzapfel's guilt over his brother's death (which he had nothing to do with) drives him to suicide.

Chapter 58

The suffering faces of depleted men and women reached across to them, pleading not so much for help, but for an explanation. Just something to subdue this confusion. (58.35)

This passage suggest that human beings crave understanding even more than food. The situation of the Jews being marched to Dachau is unimaginable. They never in their wildest dreams thought it would come to this. If someone came to you and told you you'd soon be moved to a death camp, would you believe it?

Chapter 60

They should have come by now and swept through the house, looking for any evidence of Jew loving or treason, but it appeared that Max had left for no reason at all. He could have been asleep in the basement or sketching in his book. (60.21)

Hans suffers a great deal for his bread-giving moment. And he sends Max away in vain. But really, how could he possibly have known they wouldn't come? In any case, Hans couldn't let Max stay to die. He couldn't take the chance.

Chapter 80

On Munich Street, a boy and a girl were entwined. They were twisted and comfortless on the road. Together, they watched the humans disappear. (80.94-96)

Rudy has fought Liesel to keep her from chasing after Max, and has probably saved her life and Max's in the process. The scene is loaded with suffering for all involved.

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