Since the beginning of time, people have used bravery to continue fighting in order to overcome the hardest things in life. In Markus Zusak’s book, The Book Thief, Liesel has to face many obstacles in order to see that she just needs to be brave and keep fighting through the emotional pain. Liesel is a little girl that lives in a foster home in Nazi, Germany. Liesel’s original mother could not afford to care for Liesel or her brother any longer so she thought that the best thing to do for the kids was to send them to a better family. On the way to the foster home, Liesel’s brother passed away. Little did Liesel know, this would be the first of many deaths she would have to encounter over the next couple of years. This is when Death, the narrator, met Liesel for the first time. Later, Liesel then attended her brother’s funeral. At his burial, she stole her first book called, The Grave Digger’s Handbook. Right after the funeral she was taken to the foster house of Rosa and Hans Hubermann. For the next years with Rosa and Hans, she would have to stay strong in order to not be crushed by all of the stress, death, and horror in Nazi, Germany. Liesel’s gradual shift from frightened, to accepting, to strong, shows bravery is born from experience.
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Liesel demonstrates that it is easy to be frightened, staring into the face of death and change. In the book, the first time Liesel was truly frightened was at her brother’s funeral. “The girl however, stayed. Her knees entered the ground. Her moment had arrived. Still in disbelief, she started to dig. He couldn’t be dead. He couldn’t- Within seconds, snow was carved into her skin. Frozen blood was cracked across her hands” (23). Liesel is not able to accept the fact that one of the only people she would share her life with, was now dead. She thought she was supposed to move into a foster home with her little brother, live happily ever after, and share life memories with him. All of that was taken away from her by Death. When Liesel was called by her mother to leave the burial site of her recently lost brother, she thought of their relationship and how life might be without him. Liesel then realized her brother was part of her and that was never going to change. “Somewhere in the snow, she could see her broken heart, in two pieces. Each half was glowing, and beating under all that white” (24). When Liesel sees her heart broken in half, it shows her brother was the most important thing to her; half of her heart belonged to her him. When he passed away, she felt empty, useless, and frightened. She was now forced to go to a foster home alone, and live with people she had never met before. When Liesel arrived to the foster home, she was too terrified to get out of the car. “It took nearly fifteen minutes to coax her from the car. It was the man who did it. There was the gate next, which she clung to. A gang of tears trudged from her eyes as she held on and refused to go inside” (28). Liesel is now being forced to move away from the only other person she loves, her mother, and live with strangers. She was frightened of what was happening and she didn’t want anything to change. In the beginning of The Book Thief, Liesel was frightened of change and was not comfortable with change occurring so quickly in her life.
Liesel begins to accept the fact that her life is changing, and it might be for the better. She begins to start stealing, displaying that she’s getting used to her new life, and is just trying to make small improvements for herself and her new family. After eating mama’s horrid pea soup for countless nights and days, Liesel decided to steal a ham from Otto Sturm who was delivering the ham to the priests. “There was a small portion of guilt at first, but the plan was perfect, or at least as close to perfect as it could be. At just after two o’clock every Friday, Otto Sturm turned onto Munich Street with the produce in his front handlebars… After approximately fifteen minutes, the diabolical plan bore it fruit, so to speak…. Otto came around the corner, dopey as a lamb. He wasted no time in losing control of the bike, sliding across the ice, and lying facedown in the road. ‘I think we might have killed him!’ He crept slowly out, removed the basket with ham in it, and made their getaway” (162-163). Liesel is starting to adapt to Nazi, Germany. She is now confident enough with her family and her situation that if she got in trouble for stealing her foster parents would not send her away. There was very little food because she was poor, which caused her to steal the priest’s food. Even when the Hubermanns thought everything in life was starting to stable out, a promise Hans made to a Jew in World War 1 comes back to him. Hans promised the guy who saved his life that he would do anything he every needed help with. Years later, the man ended up holding Hans up to his word and had the Hubermann family take in his son Max, who was a Jew. Liesel’s first words to Max are, “Is it- good?” (217). Even though Max could end up causing her and her new family to die, she still wanted to become friends with him. She finally built up the courage to talk to Max for the first time after five days. Liesel began to talk to Max more hearing the terrible things Hitler had done to people. “I hate the Fubrer (meaning Hitler in Germany)” (115). In this moment, Liesel is telling Papa, otherwise known as Hans, that she hates Hitler. She feels as if Hitler was the reason that everything was taken away from her. She was confident enough in her thoughts that she could tell Papa what she thought. If she thought of hating the Fubrer before, she would not have told anyone else because of the lack of courage she had. She felt as if she could not get close to people because the two people she had loved, were taken away from her. All of this causes the reader conclude that Liesel is starting to get comfortable with people. She also begins to accept that her life will not turn out the way she plans, but she will do what she can in order to make it better.
Towards the end of the book, Liesel’s courage and strength is admirable. Everyone she loved and cared about died and she had nowhere to turn to. Instead of giving up, she kept fighting which makes her an extremely brave character. Being a kind-hearted, brave person, Liesel decided to go with her best friend Rudy and leave small pieces of bread on the ground for starving Jews. “Liesel couldn’t help herself. There was the trace of a grin on her face as she and Rudy Steiner, her best friend, handed out the pieces of bread on the road… The first soldier did not see the bread- he was not hungry- but the first Jew saw it. His ragged hand reached down and picked up and shoved it deliriously into his mouth” (440). By doing this, it shows that she cares for other people’s lives and wellbeing more than her own. She put the Jews, people she had never met before, in front of herself by risking getting whipped or executed for feeding them. After almost getting in trouble with feeding the Jews, Liesel began to read to one of her next-door neighbors, Frau Holtzapfel. Liesel had been making her happy until Frau Holtzapfel found out that one of her sons died in war. She decided that there was no reason to live anymore. Once the bombing sirens started going off, Frau Holtzapfel remained sitting in her house. “‘Frau Holtzapfel, we have to go. Frau Holtzapfel, we’ll die if we stay here. You still have one son left. Everyone’s waiting for you. The bombs will blow your head off. If you don’t come, I’ll stop coming to read to you, and that means you’ve lost your only friend’” (485). Liesel suddenly realized that Frau Holtzapfel was still in the house so she ran to go check on her. Frau Holtzapfel refused to leave her house because she had found out her son died. She did not care if she died either because she felt worthless without one of her sons. Liesel risked her life for Frau Holtzapfel’s and her other son’s safety, who was still alive. Liesel knew that is Frau Holtzapfel did not come out of her house, there was a great possibility her son, whom was still alive, would stay in the house with her throughout the bombing. After the bombing, Liesel found out she was the only one on Himmel Street who had survived. She was walking around on Himmel street when she found her family and friends remains. “There was only one body now, on the ground, and Liesel lifted him up and higged him. She wept over the shoulder of Hans Hubremann. Goodbye, Papa, you saved me. You taught me to read. No one can play like you. I’ll never drink champagne. No one can play like you. Her arms held him. She kissed his shoulder- she could not bear to look at his face anymore- and she placed him down again. The book thief wept until she was gently taken away” (539). When Liesel saw Papa’s body on the ground, she said her goodbyes to him. Even though Liesel tared up, she stayed strong for her herself. Liesel could have given up at that moment but instead, she decided that she would keep fighting, even though everyone she loved had been taken from her.
The pain that Liesel had experienced in her early years, gave her a sense of bravery for the future. Throughout the book, Liesel turns from a frightened little girl who barely talks, to a young women with a strong opinion about life. Her bravery and courage made an impact on everyone around her. Liesel shows that if she could survive this horrible event, that anyone could. It teaches readers around the world to keep trying and eventually they will have the courage to stick up to some life’s hardest problems.
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