Posted: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 4:22:49 AM
Words and propaganda are the most persuasive devices in daily life. Words can lead someone to hate, to love, to help, to act. Words and propaganda were especially emphasized and praised during World War II. In Markus Zusak's novel The Book Thief, a young girl named Liesel is moved herself by words and matures because of the words she encounters. Liesel lives in the middle of Germany during WWII and cannot help being lured by the mysteries words reveal at a time and place where reading is most limited. Liesel learns throughout the novel that each individual has a choice on what they will use their words for.
When Liesel first arrived at her foster parents home at the age of 9, she was illiterate but had in possession her first stolen book. The book was simply the guide of a gravedigger that Liesel stole at the sight of her younger brother's burial. When Liesel first read through the book with her foster-father Hans, the words meant nothing yet the idea of the words captured her heart and she discovered her love for reading. As time past, Liesel continually stole books from the mayor's wife's library and slowly with the help of Hans became more and more literate. Perhaps the first time Liesel discovered the true reason for words was when a Jewish man her family was hiding in the basement, Max, wrote a short book for her entitled The Standover Man. Liesel found that Max's affection for here was clearly portrayed in the words of this book and his appreciation of her could not have been passed in any different words. The point at which the absolute power of words was made clear was when Liesel was older and wiser and read another book from Max. This book was called The Word Shaker. The Word Shaker was an allegory for Nazi Germany displaying Max's view on the destruction words can do. Liesel learns how one man's words were so powerful that they brainwashed an entire country into believing that evil was the only good. After reading Max's allegory, Liesel places her blame of her biological mother, father, and brother's deaths on the beguiling propaganda of Adolph Hitler. Liesel still loves Max's words but when she sees him marched off to a concentration camp, she allows anger to take over and she blames everything on words themselves wondering what good they are.
Words can brainwash, words can kill, words can inspire, words can comfort. Words are what define life and words are what place values. Towards the end of Zusak's novel, Liesel writes her own story quoting "I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right" (Zusak). Liesel is determined to make words “right” and use them for compassion rather than the evils Hitler used them for. The Book Thief gives everyone an option to use words for better or for worse.