6th-8th Grade

The Power of Human Connection

By Rui W.
September 2015
7th Grade
A black and white photograph of three boys, backs to us, peering through a wire fence.

Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird once said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  This wisdom is applicable to WWII, because a person usually associates the Germans with the Nazis and Adolf Hitler, but there is also a good side of Germany. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, is a story about an ordinary girl and her community in war-torn Germany.  While the struggles of WWII are happening, Liesel Meminger loses her brother and her mother and has to live with her new foster parents, the only souvenir of her past a small book.  Through the hard times of starvation and fear, Liesel finds comfort through her friend Rudy, her stolen books, and most of all, her family, because while friends and books can help one survive hardships big or small, family is the most important asset in times of crisis.

The books are a way that Leisel can remember events, be distracted from the outside world, and can bond with her neighbors.  The first book she steals, The Gravediggers Guide, helps her remember her brother. The Shoulder Shrug helps her remember the burning of the books,The Standover Man marks the arrival and friendship of Max Vandenburg, and The Complete Duden Dictionary and Thesaurus helps her remember how she patches things up with the mayor’s wife.  Secondly, since the story’s location is during World War II, the books are often a distraction for Liesel so that during hunger and bombing raids, she wouldn’t be so afraid. The books help her have a better relationship with other people, like when her papa teaches her how to read, Rudy steals books with her, and her neighbor wants Liesel to read for her.  Even though Liesel owns the books, her neighbors also escape the real world along with her because Liesel shares the pleasure of reading with others.

Other than books, Liesel has Rudy who brings her fun and cheer.  From the moment Rudy becomes friends with her on the soccer field, they both experience lots of adventures together.  First of all, Rudy gives Liesel encouragement and is always a loyal companion to Liesel.  Liesel and Rudy also share a lot of experiences, from stealing food to just talking to each other.  Liesel knows that she can trust Rudy, as she confides with him a lot, like when she tells him that there is a Jew in her basement.  Rudy cares for Leisel so much that he actually jumps in a freezing cold river to get her book back.  “ A book floated down the Amper River.  A boy jumped in, caught up to it, and held it in his right hand. He grinned.  He stood waist-deep in the icy, Decemberish water.  ‘How about a kiss, Saumensch?’ he said.”   Rudy will do anything for her, so it seems like he is more concerned for Liesel than he is for himself.  Friends like Rudy help us survive hardships, big or small; in Liesel’s case, the hardship is quite large as she lives in Nazi Germany during WWII.

Books and Rudy may do a lot for Liesel, but it is her family that supports her through the toughest times in her life.  At first, when Liesel arrives at her foster family she doesn’t talk to her foster parents, because of the trauma of her brother dying and her mother leaving her.  But when she has nightmares, her foster dad, Hans Hubermann, is there to calm her down.  Hans eventually teaches her to read and write.  Liesel’s mother also cares about Liesel. Although she yells at Liesel more than often, she is yelling because she cares for Liesel and Hans, as it is the only way that Liesel’s mother can express her thoughts. Max, a Jew hiding in Hubermanns’ basement, is like a family member as well. When Max is sick, Liesel brings 13 presents for Max.  Finally, when the soldiers pull her out of the wreckage, she is in a panic, and yells for her parents and Max.  “She said, ‘We have to get my papa, my mama. We have to get Max out of the basement. If he’s not there, he’s in the hallway, looking out the window. He does that sometimes when there’s a raid—he doesn’t get to look much at the sky, you see. I have to tell him how the weather looks now. He’ll never believe me. . . .’”  This passage demonstrates that in a moment of the largest crisis in her life, she panics and calls out for her family. She doesn’t call for Rudy or miss her books; instead, she longs to be with the people she loves most.

Liesel cares more for her family, because to her, books and friends are no match to her parents. Even though they are only her foster parents, she still loves them.  “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life,”  Richard Bach, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull observes.  One does not have to be related to be a family.  Instead, a strong bond of consideration and care for each other shows what a true family is.  A good book is similar to a family member or a caring friend because when one reads a book, he can relate to the protagonist, and also find out something about himself that he didn’t know before.  Therefore, in hardships, what sustains us is something that we can relate to.

© XXXX Lena Rabinovich. All rights reserved.
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