“A small fact: You are going to die….does this worry you?” (Zusak). Death is what people fear most.
Unfortunately, it is inevitable. As Liesel begins a new life in her foster home, she experiences horrific events that no child should encounter. While she grows up, she becomes a courageous adolescent, who in the eyes of Death, holds the beauty in the ugliness of this world. Death becomes a major symbol in Markus Zusak novel The Book Thief, as he is personified as a human, described as the “soul-gatherer”, and tells his story through the life of a courageous girl named Liesel.
The novel is set during the World War II, written from the point of view of Death. Death, the narrator, takes the reader on a journey through the lives of courageous people, with specific interest in Liesel. Death perceived to be the “Grim Reaper”, is not truly who he is, “By the way–I like this human idea of the grim reaper. I like the scythe. It amuses me,” (Zusak, 75). Death enjoys his mystery to people and the ways he is described. However, he is not very different than the lives who wonder about him; his mystery haunts the world.
Death personified as a human, possess the qualities similar to the ones he encounters. Among the human characteristics he acquires, most wondrous of all, is his ability to feel emotions. As mentioned, “Even Death has a heart,” (242). With his heart, his understanding for the lives he gathers becomes evident as he expresses his emotions with the feelings of real people. Though one thing confuses Death, he says, “I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty and wonder how the same thing can be” (491). It is because of this he finds it difficult in determining the meaning in what he does.
Death, notorious for being the “soul gatherer”, is described as an emotionless and horrifying idea; though he is not the “bad guy” of story, that’s Hitler. Through the appaling actions of Hitler and the Nazi’s, Death begins to personify himself more as a human each time a soul is gathered. His job as the “soul gatherer” is to collect the souls of the lives lost in the world, yet his ability to feel for the lives and souls he’s witnessed makes his job difficult. Distracting him from the collection of souls, he analyzes the colours of the world around him. As each soul is collected there is a connection between the death and the natural world, “The question is what colour will everything be at that moment when I come for you? What will the sky be saying?” (4). It is described that each person dies with their own colour of the sky. As a result of analyzing the colours, Death’s encounter with the pain and emotions becomes less agonizing as it becomes a “vacation” from his job.
Red, a common colour Death talks speaks about occurs in some of the most unpleasant times, “The last time I saw her the book thief was red. The sky was like soup, boiling and stirring. In some places, it was burned. There were black crumbs, and pepper, streaked across the redness… Then, bombs,” (12).
Red associated with violence, danger, death and heartache clearly unfold how Death feels about the situation at hand. White another colour associated with Death, reveals to us the coldness of death. Contradicting that, it also symbolizes Liesel’s innocence to the horrific events happening around her.
As Liesel’s brother dies and buried in the snow, it foreshadows Liesel nightmares that will occur from the emptiness she will feel of no longer having a brother. Black a colour associated with fear, mystery, death, and evil reveals to us throughout the story the absence of colour in life. It explores destruction and terror while enhancing the atmosphere of death.
The black sky in connection to the swastika, appear when the most damage is done. When black emerges, so does the atmosphere of destruction and mourning captivating what find a word occurs. All three colours together form the swastika flag. Each colour representing fear and destruction, the power of Hitler and the Nazi’s to manipulate and touture the innocent lives of civilians during World War II.
It is through Zusak use of colours through the voice of Death that is the “soul gatherer” and he is expression for colours.Liesel the protagonist of “The Book Thief” develops from a distrusting young girl to and young teen who values the relationships and opportunities she’s given. Throughout the novel. Liesel undergoes change in one of the worst ways for a child.
After experiencing her brothers death and being put into a foster home. She is left all alone and must build trust in those around her. As a result of her development, she was once a girl who suffered tremendously but is now a courageous and fearless girl. For that reason, Death is inspired by her. As Death’s job is sorrowful, he finds enjoyment in collecting the stories from courageous people. Liesel in particular interests him because of his ability to express himself through her. As mentioned earlier Death does not understand how humans can be so ugly yet beautiful at the same time.
So through Liesel his able to express his beliefs of good and beauty in the world. However he still remain trapped with the ugliness as people like Hitler still exist. He believes her story is detailed with the beauty that still exists. Not understanding why humans can be so beautiful and ugly, he finds ways to express himself through Liesel as she is his walking evidence for the beauty he loves.Taking everything into account, Death is human and collects the souls who have lost conscience. Not understanding why humans can be so beautiful and ugly, he finds ways to express himself throughout the novel, specifically through the life of Liesel.
As he learn more about humans, Death says, “I am haunted by humans” (550). The closing remark which states that he is afraid of humans and the disgusting things that are capable from they species.