Max and Liesel; How Max Plays an Important Role in Liesel’s Life
The idea of a Jewish male and a German girl becoming good acquaintances is an unimaginable, punishable thought in the time that The Book Thief is written. However, Max Vandenburg and Liesel Meminger went against this abomination during this time and during their friendship Max Vandenburg gave many things to Liesel: purpose through strength, purpose in knowing that Jews are humans as well, and purpose in knowing the power of words. Max and Liesel are two similar but very different characters in The Book Thief.
These two characters although conflicted find comfort in each other through seeing things in color and words, which gives Liesel a different view on varying prominent things in her life, in Germany. By better understanding how Max and Liesel compare and differ in character a reader can determine how Max’s life gives Liesel purpose through making her stronger, showing her the brutality of the Nazi’s, and showing her the power of words. Liesel becomes stronger emotionally through having a shared feeling of abandonment between Max and her from their past experiences.
After she and Max Vandenburg share their nightmares in the basement of the Hubermann’s, Liesel begins to deal with her nightmares by herself and to not let them envelop her. Liesel also realizes through these stories of Max’s experiences that if he can fight for his life everyday and live by running then she can persevere through her nightmares and be stronger. By keeping some emotions inside her, like fear and love, she helps adjust to relying on just herself which is shown in the ending of the book, “Hot tears fought for room in her eyes as she would not let them out. Better to stand resolute and proud” (Zusak 512).
Having strength also gave her a voice allowing her to stand up to different people and change people’s minds in very intricate ways. As Liesel became stronger it led her to have more of a purpose in different ways and she finds new reasons to live. One of the most prominent of differences between the two characters is physical; Max is Jewish and Liesel is German. As the book is set during the time period of World War II in Germany, the separation between the Jews and the Aryan race is an outstanding factor in people’s lives. Liesel overcame the sense of being hypnotized to the Furher’s words through Max and their friendship.
Beginning to realize the brutality of the Nazi’s and the nature of the Jews, Liesel changes her mind about the Nazi government, allowing her to not be as easily swayed by the propaganda of the dictator of Germany. People begin to realize the innocence and the lack of prejudice in a child especially through Liesel as she grew older, “She was a Jew feeder without a question in the world on a man’s first night in Molching” (Zusak 532). This gives Liesel purpose to show other Germans the same realization that both those of the Aryan Race and the Jewish people are human and they can share the same interests as each other.
Through Max’s and Liesel’s shared love of books and writing Max gives Liesel the extensive knowledge of the power of words. For the rest of her life she cherishes this knowledge, “She was still holding onto the words who had saved her life” (Zusak 499). Words not only helped her and Max, but she found her true calling in comforting people through reading to them. “The Standover Man” and “The Word Shaker” allows Liesel to see the effects of words on her through someone else’s eyes as well as the effect of her words on someone else. Max shows her that she too has made him stronger and he accepts several troubles in his life.
Through recognizing this it gives Liesel purpose and eventually led her to write a book on her own called “The Book Thief”. Soon after Max leaves the Hubermann household Liesel finds out the reason she steals books and why they mean so much to her, giving her stealing a purpose as well. The knowledge of words from Max really contributes to Liesel’s purpose in life and allows Liesel to grow as a person by knowing the effect of words on people. Max gives Liesel a different outlook on different things in her life like her bad experiences, the German government, and words.
Liesel becomes stronger as she begins to realize that compared to Max she is without struggle in her life. She sees that before she met Max Vandenburg she was devoted to the ways of the Nazi’s and now seeing what they have done to those like Max, she changes her ways. Also, the biggest thing Max has bestowed on Liesel is showing her the power of words; this gives Liesel true purpose in giving her the power to comfort and harm people through both reading and writing. The relationship between Max and Liesel is a great marvel in Markus Zusak’s, The Book Thief, and is a huge turning point in the book as well.