Study Guide

The Book Thief Chapter 15

By Markus Zusak

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Chapter 15

The Town Walker

  • Things start going wrong when one of Rosa loses one of her washing customers.
  • That night, she takes her irritation out on Liesel, giving her an extra hard washing along with the usual helping of verbal stings.
  • About a week later, Rosa decides Liesel should pick up and deliver the washing. She says:
    "Those rich people are less likely to fire us if you're the one standing in front of them. If they ask […], tell them I'm sick. And look sad when you tell them." (15.16)
  • Rosa threatens Liesel with the wooden spoon. The spoon is what she'll get if she doesn't bring home the money, messes up the laundry, or goofs off with Rudy.
  • Liesel tells Rosa what she wants to hear, which is "Yes, Mama" (15.28).
  • Saying that and actually following Rosa's instructions are the best way for Liesel to stay off of Rosa's bad side.
  • Liesel is fond of her new job, for the most part.
  • She's also fond of the remaining four customers, the last of whom is "Frau Hermann, the mayor's wife, standing fluffy-haired and shivery in her enormous, cold-aired doorway" (15.35).
  • Rudy accompanies Liesel on her duties from time to time.
  • It's now mid-January (1940), and Liesel's class is doing a letter writing exercise.
  • At home, Liesel asks Hans if she can write to her real mother.
  • Clearly uncomfortable, Hans says that the foster-care lady, Frau Heinrich, who is also uncomfortable on the topic of Liesel's mother, might be able to deliver it.
  • Liesel pushes away the sense that something is wrong and spends three hours writing her first letter to her mother.
  • Later this night, Liesel hears Rosa asking Hans why Liesel is writing to her mother. We are told that Rosa's "voice is surprisingly calm and caring" (15.57).
  • Now Liesel is sure something is wrong.
  • Rosa also says, "Who knows where she is? Who knows what they've done to her?" (15.59).
  • Curled up in a ball in her bed, Liesel asks herself those same questions.
  • She also wonders who Rosa is talking about when she says, "they" (15.64).

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