Brutality and Beauty are both aspects of the human spirit and therefore are evident in society and have been through the ages. History can be examined to bring forth examples of both, often side by side, often in times of great destruction such as in times of war. In the novel, The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak explores and compares the juxtaposition between great brutality and beauty in the human spirit evident in the German town of Molching during WW2. The author demonstrates how the characters in the novel can overcome cruelty and ruthlessness with acts of extraordinary kindness and humaneness. This is shown through the novel with Max and Liesel’s friendship, when Hans gives one of the Jewish camp prisoners a piece of bread and when Rosa and Hans protect Max from the Nazis. Zusak illustrates that a human’s capacity for hope is difficult to destroy regardless of the circumstances.
Throughout The Book Thief, Max and Liesel’s friendship is developed amidst war and suffering. Given the circumstances of the time and Max’s background, they still manage to develop a special bond between the two of them. This is made evident several times in the novel including when Max gives Liesel the book, The Standover Man for her birthday. This story that Max writes himself defines the significance of their friendship, as he says in the story; ‘Now we are friends, this girl and me’. He illustrates and expresses his love and friendship with Liesel by comparing their dreams with each other as they have both have this in common. It also allows Max to ‘understand that the best standover man I’ve known isn’t a man at all...’, so his friendship with Liesel helps him uncover things he wouldn’t have been able to without her. Furthermore, the message that Zusak is trying send is that friendships can still be made no matter what the circumstances are.
Zusak shows that regardless of the cruelty and brutality of humanity, beauty can always overcome brutality somehow. This is evident when Hans gives one of the starving Jewish camp prisoners a piece of bread when they are marched through Molching on their way to the Dachau death camp. When Hans ‘held his hand out and presented a piece of bread, like magic’ to the Jew it symbolises the beauty amongst all the war and suffering. This was a very risky decision that Hans made and despite the fact that he regretted it afterwards and asked himself ‘what was I thinking?’. Hans was possibly more concerned with the danger to which he had exposed his wife Rosa and his ward Liesel. Such a character as Hans was not concerned with his own safety even in the face of the brutality of the German prison guards.
Offering asylum to a Jew during the time of the Holocaust was what some would see as either an act of great bravery or great stupidity. Hans owed the Jew Max's father a great favour accrued in WW1. Hans had always promised to repay a debt, and thus Max arrived on his doorstep in his attempt to avoid being sent to a concentration camp in Hitler's campaign to rid Europe of Jews so the Aryan race would not be sullied. The Hubermanns offer Max love and friendship in contrast to the hatred the general populace shows Jews in response to Hitler's edicts. in Rosa accepts Max without considering turning him away. Even though her character is presented as brusque, foulmouthed and impatient, she has a good heart. Sheltering Max puts the whole family in danger of being shot as traitors, but Max lives as comfortably as possible in the freezing basement, never venturing outside except if the air raid siren goes off. In 1933, 90 percent of Germans showed unflinching support for Adolph Hitler. That leaves 10 percent who didn't. Hans Hubermann belonged to that ten percent. (10.9) The beauty of this harbouring of a Jew in the time of the Holocaust was an act of breathtaking bravery in the face of Nazi brutality, showering hope on Max who was in a hopeless situation.
Markus Zusack demonstrates how the characters in The Book Thief overcome cruelty and ruthlessness with acts of extraordinary kindness and humaneness. Max and Liesel’s friendship is heartwarming in the face of the brutality occurring outside the relative safety of the basement. Hans' extraordinary act of kindness in the face of great danger when giving one of the Jewish camp prisoners a piece of bread and showed great beauty in the face of great brutality. It was a kind act punishable by death, but Rosa and Hans protect Max from the Nazis. In his novel, Zusak illustrates that a human’s capacity for hope is difficult to destroy regardless of the circumstances. As the narrator Death himself says that humans are capable of both brutal and beautiful things.
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