Death, the concept in life that every human fears, is said to be haunted by humans because of their complexity. Human nature is a continuous topic that the narrator of The Book Thief elaborates on throughout the novel. The author, Markus Zusak, personifies Death as an overworked soul collector who has his own thoughts and feelings especially towards the main character of the novel. Throughout the book, he encounters and narrates the life of a girl known as Liesel Meminger during the times of the Holocaust. The narrative voice offers a unique perspective that assists in improving the book and influencing the feelings or observations of the reader.
The book’s point of view offers the reader more knowledge of what is occurring during the time period of the Holocaust. The book is told from the third person limited where the narrator only knows the thoughts and feelings of Liesel Meminger. Death only knows what is occurring throughout the world through his own personal experiences or other sources like books or people. In the book, Death says, “They kept feeding me. Minute after minute. Shower after shower. I will never forget the first day in Auschwitz… There were broken bodies and dead, sweet hearts” (Zusak 349). Death explains his experience in a summer in Auschwitz, which provides the reader with more knowledge on what is occurring in Poland rather than in Himmel Street. Third person limited offers the author more opportunities to inform the reader of events that could not be told if the book was told in the perspective of Liesel Meminger. First person point of view would have told the story of events that only take place in Himmel Street and through Liesel’s eyes. Personifying Death as a human, the readers are able to receive descriptions or definitions through the use of colors to capture their attention. This helps the reader not only focus on Liesel’s story, but the Holocaust and Death’s own experiences with it.
Death’s narrative voice helps improve the book in a way where he manipulates the reader’s feelings and thoughts to make the book’s dark events appear humorous or lighthearted. Death tells the story of Liesel Meminger and the Holocaust in a way in which he converts a depressing period of time and makes it seem more hopeful for the readers. This narrative voice tends to be rather welcoming and entertaining. Death claims, “You want to know what I truly look like? I’ll help you out. Find yourself a mirror while I continue” (Zusak 307). Death does not look like what people usually imagine, which contains skull-like features and a scythe. He instead says that he looks like every human. This presents an entertaining tone because Death uses dark humor to make himself seem funny towards the reader. It is a form of dark humor because Death is talking about the sensitive topic that all humans die and therefore he looks like humans. This narrative voice he uses makes the concept seem funnier than saddening. This humor improves the book in a way in which depressing topics seem more happier yet still serious. Without using humor, Death is also able to make the book seem more lighthearted. In the novel, Death states, “Each one an attempt… to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it” (Zusak 15). Death is trying to give the readers a glimpse of hope. The narrator wants the readers to believe that humans can learn to change and improve in times of despair. He is encouraging the readers that even if a world without negative emotions like hatred can truly exist anytime soon, the readers should take a stand to fight against hatred and injustice when it is required. The author offers a welcoming and entertaining narrative voice that gives the readers entertainment and hope to change themselves to be better.
Markus Zusak portrays Death and his job in a way that is both relatable and easy to understand or create visuals of. Markus Zusak personifies Death as an overworked soul collector with War as his boss. The author also states that Death likes to distract himself with the colors instead of the dead humans. In the novel, Death says, “First the colors. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things” (Zusak 3). Death uses colors to describe his job as a soul collector. He uses these colors to reflect on the terrifying events that had occurred or his own feelings while on the job. Death indicates that the death of a human is connected to the natural world which presents the reader to a world where no human is treated with sympathy at death. The colors he describes throughout the events also improve the book because it provides imagery that helps create the mood during that part of the book or the atmosphere of the event. Markus Zusak also makes Death appear relatable to the audience. Death states that War is like a boss that keeps asking for more without giving anything to him in return. This can be relatable to humans because everyone has had a job that could have been stressful at times. It is also easy for the readers to understand how Death’s job could be overwhelming and why he dislikes it.
The decisions on how Markus Zusak decides to portray Death’s thoughts and feelings also help influence the reader’s own feelings and bring the book to a close. Death is said to be able to be in the right place at the right time. He is always finding people at their best and at their worst. In the novel, Death states, “I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damming and brilliant” (Zusak 550). Death was curious as to how people could be two different characteristics at once. This brings the reader’s attention to the nature of mankind and how someone can be horrible yet amazing. Death, throughout the book, teaches the reader to observe what humans are truly capable of and how any choice can bring consequences or rewards in life. Death influences the readers to ponder on how decisions can bring out the best in life or the worst and they should, therefore, be careful with their actions. This observation also helps bring the story to a close because it concludes the book after the long period of the Holocaust in a way in which he says that human actions could be beautiful yet ugly.
Markus Zusak provides a unique point of view in The Book Thief that helps unravel the novel and impact the reader’s emotions. By making Death’s feelings and job relatable to the reader, Markus Zusak is able to connect with the readers to make them ponder about their observations or actions. Death also provides a welcoming and lighthearted narrative voice that makes the reader stay hopeful while they read the traumatic events of the Holocaust. By using third person limited, Markus Zusak is able to give the reader more knowledge on what is occurring throughout the time period of the novel other than the events happening in Himmel Street. Markus Zusak utilizes a distinctive type of narrative to tell a story that impacts the reader into thinking about mankind and the horrors of the world in a more hopeful view.
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