Characterisation in the book thief


Hans Hubermann is presented from the start as a kind, father like character. When Liesel won’t come out of the car when her mother first give her away, who was there to soothe her out: Hans. When Liesel starts having nightmares Hans is there to be her friend. “Trust was accumulated quickly, due primarily to the brute strength of the man’s gentleness.” Hans and Liesel become good friends because of how warm and kind Hans is. Liesel is a significant event in Hans’ life, it might be a way for him to try again in raising children as he might think he failed with his son. His son ridicules him for not joining the Nazi party, “It’s pathetic — how a man can stand by and do nothing as a whole nation cleans out the garbage and makes itself great.” Hans doesn’t join the nazi party because he doesn’t see anything wrong with the Jews. He thinks others are the pathetic ones for entirely disregarding citizens who have been living in their country for years. Markus put Hans in the book to help Liesel’s character mature, she becomes the thing he loves most and he, hers.


Liesel is 9 years old at the beginning of the book and has just lost her mother and brother. Therefore she is portrayed as a scared girl who is small in a large world. Liesel doesn’t know why her mother abandoned her but she decides that she wants to find her again someday. Her brother’s death effects Liesel quite deeply and she has nightmares all through the book. This is the first thing that connects her to Hans Hubermann, her adopted father. Hans starts coming in to comfort her when she has the nightmares. These times turn into midnight reading class when Hans realises Liesel can’t read. Liesel’s inability to read becomes a source of ridicule from her school-mates. The word communist turns up a few times in Liesel’s life: she hears people saying that her mother was a communist, when they are burning books on Hitlers birthday the guy speaking talks about communists being the enemy. Liesel’s book thievery began after her brother died one of the grave diggers dropped his manual. Liesel took the book as a reminder to herself of her brother when she lost him. She stole her second book rescuing it from the fires of the book burning. A big influence on her life was Rudy steiner.


Rudy was included in the book thief by Markus as a sort of alter ego to Liesel to help her grow. Rudy is the same age as Liesel but he is a very confident outspoken boy, the opposite if Liesel at the start of the book. He becomes Liesel’s only friend through persistence as she is very closed towards him. He brings her out of her shell so to speak. Rudy is known around the neighbourhood because of ‘The Jessie Owens incident.’ “Everyone in his family was crowded together in their living room… He pulled some charcoal from the stove… ‘Now,’ he smiled. He was ready.” Rudy idolised Jessie Owens, an afro-American athlete who competed in the 1936 olympics and won 4 gold medals. Rudy doused himself in charcoal to be black and reenacted the scene of Jessie winning the 100 meters to himself. Rudy and Liesel were complimentary; they brought out the best in each other. Rudy increased Liesel’s urge to steal and vice versa. Rudy only stole to quench his never failing hunger. Rudy judgement on a lot of things were based on whether or not he would be less hungry by the end of the task.


Rosa Hubermann is a stern, abusive lady when we first meet her. She likes to boss around Hans and Liesel and to address them as “Saumensch.” She has an arch nemesis who lives across the street, Frau Holtzapfel. Frau Holtzapfel spits on Rosa’s door every time she comes past and Rosa goes to the front door and yells extremities at her. We only see Rosa’s soft side when Max turns up on the scene. We think Rosa knows nothing about the idea of Max turning up when he does, but she takes it in her stride and only complains as a joke about having to feed another mouth. When Max gets sick Rosa looks after to him really well saying, “I didn’t take this man into my house to watch him die. Understand?” Rosa is determined not to let max die, she is also scared at the thought of what they will have to do with him if he does die. We know rosa has a heart, and a big one at that, when she comes to school to tell Liesel that Max has woken up. Also when Hans is drafted to the army Liesel spots her clutching his accordian, she misses him so deeply despite not saying so.


Max is a German Jew hiding from the Nazi party. When we first meet Max he is being hidden in his friends basement feeling guilty for leaving behind his mother and family to save himself. He and his friend are waiting to hear from Hans Hubermann who is their last hope to save Max from being ‘Taken Away.’ Max becomes Liesel’s second friend and a mentor. He is a very patient man to be able to live for months in a hole without seeing the outside world. The first time he did see the world during his stay with the Hubermann’s was during an air raid when everyone was down in their bunkers.”When everything was quiet, I went up to the corridor and the curtain in the living was open just a crack … I could see outside.” Max leaves the Hubermann’s as Hans fears that the police would come round. Max turns up later during the book when Liesel spots him in the crowd of parading Jews. He also turns up at the end of the book when the war is over he is let free from the concentration camp and comes back to Molching to find Liesel.

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