Characterization in the book thief

The development of

Liesel in the book thief

We are greeted to a young girl at the beginning of the book thief, her name is Liesel. Liesel is a 9 year old german surviving through the world of 1939(WW2)

In the beginnings of the novel Liesel is sent to new foster parents shortly after her younger brother death. It is with her new parents Hans and Rosa that we as a reader start seeing changes of Liesel occur. She is unable to read or write at the start of the book thief which I found very ironic given how much she loves literature. The gentle Hans helps her achieve her goals of wanting to read and write and Rosa turns her into a working woman. These two help develop Liesel into the person she becomes later on in the book. Rosa and Hans are a bizarre couple given how gentle and caring Hans is and how angry and rough Rosa comes across as. The two keep a similar character throughout the book up until the point where the bombings begin and Hans must be sent away to serve for his country. The war plays a big part in the choices they are forced to make but I wouldn’t see this as important character development due to the fact that all people during the war would have to change their ways of living and being.  Liesel is the youngest of the family and suffers the most from the occurrences throughout the course of the book.  Early on she is tormented by her younger brothers death and struggles through every night as nightmares form in her head.  She is weak, and unable to control her nightmares, but who can blame a young child for this. Her fears don’t go unnoticed from Hans who comes in at night to comfort her. As the book thief progresses Liesel naturally comes to terms with her fears and grows stronger as a person. Another character worth mentioning is Max Vanderburg who also overcomes his fears throughout the book. I wouldn’t say he completely overcomes the anxious feelings the Nazis make him feel but more comes to terms with the way things are. Max and Liesel connect through literature and the sharing of fears. It is a turning point in the novel because both of these characters open up for the first time and speak what they are truly feeling. During the time where the two know each other both help one another through the harsh times,  Max helps Liesel by expanding her vocabulary and  Liesel gives Max weather reports on the world above the basement, what happened at school etc… throughout the book she is constantly growing her knowledge of literature and by the end of the text Liesel is completely confident in reading and writing.  Many of this is thanks to Hans and Max, not school. Its important that these characters all have links to one another because it creates this bond you can really feel develop throughout the book. Another important character in this book is Rudy Stiener who brings out the fun adventurous side of Liesel.  Rudy is a curious chap that always wants to push it one step further.  Even though he likes to stick his nose into situations where he does not belong he never intends for or cause harm.  So as you can imagine when young Liesel arrives in Himmel Street Rudy Steiner must be the first to greet her.


Hans keeps his character throughout the entire book. He is Liesel’s foster father who always takes care of her as if she is his own. He loves her with all his heart and Liesel really loves him like a father. The bond these two have is very important to the both and is cherished by them.  During WW2 in Germany many people followed the Nazi movement but not Hans. Hans is not a believer of the Nazi movement and stands by his beliefs as the brave and Honorable man he is.  It is hard to not respect Hans for staying true to himself in such awful living times, question yourself and ask if you could of down the same.  He is also remarkably positive and calm in many situations such as when they had to shelter Max. He does lose his cool later on in the text but this is due to life threatening problems that any human being would of found difficult to be in. Positivity is what keeps him going throughout the text, he is always positive during situations where others will lose faith in the world around them. This is how he appears to be on the outside however he could be feeling something else inside his mind but if such is the case he never shows it.  His natural way of being is very calm and happy, and he puts this spirit into his life which is what makes him such a likable character. As he is called to the war Hans is more than likely feeling scared of the fact he may not return but does he ever show his  fear? No.





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