Book Thief

Kiersten Hendricks

Period 6

May 18, 2018

The Power of Words

In Mark Zusak’s “The Book Thief”, the use of language and communication are a prominent aspect to defining the significance of their impact. “The Book Thief” includes a young girl named Liesel who lives in Nazi Germany at the time of the Holocaust. Liesel and her family go on to harbour a Jew from the Nazi Party which shows Liesel that Jews really aren’t so bad after all. During this story, the author uses lots of literary devices to show how important communication really is and the significance of written pieces. By using books inside of his story and by making those in leadership roles use words to gain power, Zusak establishes a theme that shows the reader the message of the book. In “The Book Thief”, the author establishes the power of words.

It is evident that Zusak uses the text to portray the power of words in leadership. When Max writes “The Standover Man” it includes an illustration of how Hitler is at the top of his nation because the uses the power of words. When Max gives Liesel a book titled “The Standover Man” he teaches Liesel something. It says, “Yes, the Fuhrer decided he would rule the world with words.”(445) What the author is trying to elude to is that Hitler is in control because he would speak out in front of thousands of people and persuade them to become this nation of destruction. Nobody would have followed Hitler if he stood up in front of millions and was unsure of what to say. However, when an individual is able to be confident and be clear with their ideas they can be a ruler because people will follow others who can express their thoughts clearly through communication. Also, when Liesel visits the mayor’s house she finds that they have a plethora of books. Coincidentally this is the mayor’s house. The mayor is a leader who has power over his community. It was not by accident that the author placed a leader to be the role of having books and words. Effective communication is much more impactful than any strength or wisdom when it comes to gaining followers.

The author uses books as a motif to show the reader their of their importance. Liesel’s favorite thing to do was steal books. She started with “The Grave Digger’s Handbook” and continued stealing and reading them throughout the story. The author didn’t have Liesel’s love for books in the story by accident. “How fitting that she was discovering the power of words.” (147) Zusak is referring to when Liesel was in the mayor’s library and was reading. Books were the author’s way of showing how words can influence everyone. These books inspired Liesel to change others when she read inside the bomb shelter. She provided serenity in a time of panic and that was only done through reading. The author clearly demonstrates how something as simple as reading was enough to calm a crowd during an air raid. Additionally, when the Nazi’s would celebrate, they would burn books written by Jews and any book that had to do with Jews. The Nazi’s would burn books partially beciase they were in fear that these books would be read by people and would gain mercy to the Jews which was their worst fear. Their fear shows that words have a huge significance to those who listen. This novel uses the power of words to convey the message that the pen is mightier than the sword.

The final example of the power of words in “The Book Thief” is shown with the actual words spoken by each of the characters. A prime example of this is when Liesel says she hates Hitler and the Nazisfor taking her mother. This leads to Liesel being smacked by Hans because he knows how dramatic those words can be and the consequences if those were heard. Words were so vital in this time period that if you were heard saying anything that could possibly be against the Nazis then you would be severely punished. Words were given so much power and authority that you had to think about each one before they left your mouth. In addition, the character’s communication in this book were a prime example of the power of words. After Rosa is fired by Frau Hermann, Liesel has some choice words for the mayor’s wife. “The injury of words. Yes, the brutality of words.” (262) Liesel’s hurtful words were a strong blow to Frau Hermann. The mention of her son who had passed on completely destroyed her. This is apparent when the passage goes on to say “...A series of wounds were rising to the surface of her skin. All from words. From Liesel’s words.” (263) The author purposefully uses such descriptive words to allow the reader to associate physical injuries to the level of pain that words can do to a person’s feelings.

Through this novel, Zusak shows the power of words. Words are used to inspire others, to control others, and to welcome new emotions. Communication would not be the same without words. Liesel uses words to become the strong and powerful woman she is by the end of this story. The power of words is by far the main literary device that the reader can use to understand not only the main character of this story, but a time in our history where words changed an entire nation. Words had so much power that it resulted in millions of Jews being killed. On the other hand, words allowed a fictional character to gain confidence and power to help her stand out in a crowd. Zusak establishes the power of words as a central idea to add purpose to his novel.