Thursday, October 16, 2014


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.

This essay does not generally have referenced quotes. You will need to find some for your essay.

This essay is compiled using Anti Essay and Denise Covey's input.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Characterize the relationship between Macbeth and Lady
Macbeth. If the main theme of Macbeth is ambition, whose ambition is the driving force of the play—Macbeth’s, Lady Macbeth’s, or both?

The Macbeths’ marriage, like the couple themselves, is atypical, particularly by the standards of its time. Yet despite their odd power dynamic, the two of them seem surprisingly attached to one another, particularly compared to other married couples in Shakespeare’s plays, in which romantic felicity appears primarily during courtship and marriages tend to be troubled. Macbeth offers an exception to this rule, as Macbeth and his wife are partners in the truest sense of the word. Of course, the irony of their “happy” marriage is clear—they are united by their crimes, their mutual madness, and their mounting alienation from the rest of humanity.
Though Macbeth is a brave general and a powerful lord, his wife is far from subordinate to his will. Indeed, she often seems to control him, either by crafty manipulation or by direct order. And it is Lady Macbeth’s deep-seated ambition, rather than her husband’s, that ultimately propels the plot of the play by goading Macbeth to murder Duncan. Macbeth does not need any help coming up with the idea of murdering Duncan, but it seems unlikely that he would have committed the murder without his wife’s powerful taunts and persuasions.



2. All writers are ‘book thieves' for they discover secretive tactics for undermining the
reader's capacity to interpret a narrative, and steal into their hearts with their
expression and style. Zusak's way with words is singularly inventive, since he uses
figures of speech in a totally original, cryptic and poetic manner . eg ‘When the train
pulled into the Bahnhof in Munich , the passengers slid out as if from a torn package.' (p
25) Rosa ‘looked like a small wardrobe with a coat thrown over it.' (p 28) ‘Burning words
were torn from their sentences.'(p 121) ‘Birds above did laps.'(p 121) ‘Rudy…barely able to
contain a grin. It ran across his face like a skid.'(p 175) ‘The town hall stood like a giant,
ham-fisted youth, too big for his age.' (p 183) ‘There were no people on the street
anymore. They were rumours carrying bags.'(p 410) ‘They were going to Dachau, to
concentrate.'(p 415) ‘Faces like ghost towns.' (p 443)
Did you notice a particularly evocative piece of writing like these?

3. Setting is particularly resonantly evoked by often ascribing ‘emotions' to a place. eg
‘The house was pale, almost sickly-looking, with an iron gate and a brown spit-stained
door.'(p 184) What impression does this give the reader of the atmosphere on Himmel
Street? Read the description of Molching and Liesel's arrival on Himmel Street (pp 26-27).
What techniques does the writer use to create a picture of this place?

4. The humour in this novel has an edge of darkness (understandably since it is narrated
by Death!), and despite the fact that it is largely seen through German eyes, it is also
coloured by the distinctive tone of Jewish humour . ‘How do you tell if something's alive?
You check for breathing.' (p 39) When Rosa is at her bleakest clutching the accordion after
Hans has left, Liesel hears her snoring: ‘Who needs bellows, she thought, when you've got a
pair of lungs like that?' (p 458) ‘It kills me sometimes, how people die.'(p 494)

Did you find this novel amusing? Find examples where you appreciated the black humour at work.


Essay on The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Teacher: Adrienne Buckingham of Otago Boys' High School

In the novel The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, the narrator who is known only as ‘Death’ is a critical thinker which makes Death’s point of view very engaging for a modern audience.  Death tells the story of Liesel, an ordinary German girl living in Germany during World War Two.  Death’s point of view is very engaging for a modern audience because he provides his own insights and observations about humanity and tells the story from a German perspective rather than an Allied perspective, which is what we are used to reading.

Through his insightful narration, Death conveys to us Zusak’s idea of the duality of humanity.  One of the main ideas within this idea is that of the beauty in ugliness.  This idea is best shown to us through Liesel’s best friend, a young man named Rudy Steiner.  Rudy is the perfect physical example of a Nazi; he has “beautiful blond hair and big safe blue eyes” and he is a fine athlete.  However, mentally he hasn’t got a Nazi moral in him.  Zusak tells us this through Rudy’s actions.  When the Jews are being paraded through Molching (where Rudy and Liesel live) to the death camp, Dachau, Rudy puts bread on the road for the Jews to eat, even though this is very dangerous and he is starving himself.  This small act of kindness is a beautiful act in the ugly world of Nazi Germany.  Death foreshadows Rudy’s untimely demise by saying “he didn’t deserve to die the way he did.”  Zusak is using Death as a narrator to make insightful judgements of human’s character through their actions to portray the idea of beauty in ugliness.

The triumph of love over hate is another part of the duality of humanity which Zusak uses Death to show.  This idea is best portrayed to us through the relationship of Liesel and Max, a Jew who Liesel’s foster parents, the Hubermans, take in and hide in their basement during the Holocaust.  In Nazi Germany at the time, their relationship is very much illegal due to the antisemitic  laws and views of Nazism.  However, it is this hate and oppression which brings them together and helps to develop the love between them.  Zusak uses two events to really show us the strength of their love.  The first is when Max is being marched through the main street of Molching on his way to Dachau after being caught.  Liesel spots him in the crowd, and despite the danger of even waving to him, she runs out and hugs him.  “Her feet heavier than they had ever been before, heart swelling in her chest, she stepped onto the road.”   Zusak uses this act to show that sometimes the pull of love is far stronger than the fear of any punishment.  The second event is when after the war, Liesel is working in a shop and a man comes in looking for her.  She comes out and sees Max and in the words of Death “They both fell to the floor, and hugged and cried.”  Through the narration of Death, Zusak shows us that Max somehow managed to survive Dachau.  Zusak is suggesting that the power of Liesel’s love was enough to overcome the hate of Nazism and gave Max the strength to survive. 

Death tells the story of World War Two from the perspective of a German civilian which is very different because we are so used to hearing the story from an Allied point of view.  This critical perspective makes the story even more engaging for a modern audience as Death gives us a look into a side of the war we have not really seen before.  In one of Death’s asides throughout the novel, he states “I have observed and been horrified by humans.”  This statement captures our attention because normally humans theorise about, and are horrified by, the thought of death.  Zusak has Death say this shocking statement to convey the reality of World War Two.  Not only was it the Nazis, Allies and the Jews who suffered terribly during the war, but it was also the civilians and the people left behind after loved ones had died.  Liesel is a perfect example of the ordinary civilian who doesn’t support the Nazis but has got caught up in their war.  At the start of the book, she loses her brother and is adopted by a new family.  Then when Himmel Street is bombed, she loses just about everyone she loves.  Death illustrates to us the pain and even the survivors guilt that this causes: “It was the survivors I couldn’t stand to look at… They had torn hearts.  They had beaten lungs.”  Through Death, Zusak shows us a side of the pain which war causes that is often overlooked, but which can be worse than dying itself.  Zusak also reminds us that this pain was not limited to the Allies who had lost loved ones, but was just as relevant in the heart of Germany.

In conclusion, the narrator must be a critical thinker if the point of view of the text is to be engaging for a modern audience.  Death as a narrator is a critical thinker who Zusak uses to portray the idea of the duality of humanity and to show us a part of the war which is rarely presented to us.