Book Thiefauthor Markus Zusak

Morals and Guilt

In our own eyes do we always see the decisions we make as morally correct? Everyone always has their own reasoning behind the things they do; so everyone must always see themselves on the moral high ground. In the novel The Book Thiefauthor Markus Zusak questions this. Guilt is on of the major themes throughout the book; the dictionary defines guilt as “a feeling of deserving blame for offenses” which means that people don’t always feel as though they’ve done the honourable thing. This is true for Max Vandenburg in The Book Thiefhe feels guilty for hiding in the Hubermann’s house and he is aware that he should not be doing it. Even though people always have good reasoning behind the things they do, does not mean that they’ll always feel morally correct about it. This could be because people go against their morals, or maybe you can’t go against your morals you just change them, and then they change back once you realise what you’ve done.

Liesel Meminger also feels guilt in The Book Thief when she is stealing, although it’s different for her. She decides that stealing books brings her more joy than knowing she has done the right thing at the end of the day. Being a child Liesel does not yet have strong morals and during a time of savagery, and war stealing a book does not seem severe. These are logical things to a child, but stealing is a crime, and to society Liesel would be viewed as a criminal not an innocent child. Society has a major influence on morals from the day we’re born to the day we die people are constantly deciding how humanity should work: what’s right from wrong, what we can do versus what we cannot. At the time in her life when Liesel is stealing books she is still to young to understand her own morals, she only knows what society has taught her, she has not formed her own opinions yet. Liesel feels guilt for the things that she has done, but she does not feel immoral about it.

 Guilt is not the only link between morality and The Book Thief, but it is an important one. Another example of this is Hans Hubermann, he feels extreme guilt for making Max leave their house. Hans knew that he shouldn’t have done this, but at the same time he had to, because it was better for Max to not be there then risk the chance of him dying. He had to pick between the lesser of two evils, and in the end he made the smarter choice. Before this happened Hans made the moral, but risky choice when he fed the jewish man walking down the road; he was not about to make the same mistake again. Hans went against his morals and it caused him guilt when it should have caused him relief. He originally did something against the law, but that did not make him an immoral person. Sometimes maybe the laws are immoral and in order to do the right thing we need to break them. Having morality means that you do what you think is right. One time Hans thought that would mean following the law, and another he went against it; both times he ended up with guilt, but when he gave the man the bread he originally felt better about it.

Sources used:

Novel- Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. A.A. Knopf, 2005.

Definition- "Guilt" Merriam-Webster, 2018.

Web. 20 May 2018.