Saturday, May 21, 2011

End of Week 4 & Final Discussion--The Book Thief

This week concludes our first book club reading selection, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. We will discuss Week 4 specifically (because I forgot to post last week) as well as the book in its entirety.

If you are just joining us, please be aware that the discussion in the comments section below will likely contain spoilers for the entire book. You can find our previous discussions by clicking on the following links:
Week 1 Discussion--The Book Thief
Week 2 Discussion--The Book Thief
Week 3 Discussion--The Book Thief

Our Week 4 reading was as follows:

Week Four: pages 416--550
Punishment--The Handover Man

The  page numbers provided may vary by edition. 

Feel free to answer any question of your choosing (you don't need to answer all of them unless you want to!) Questions below are numbered to keep discussion easy to follow. Please refer to the question number you are answering in your response. Questions for the book in its entirety come from the Reader's Guide at the back of the First Knopf trade paperback edition September 2007, prepared by Pag Scales, retired director of library services, South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities (p. 5, Reader's Guide). All other questions are member submitted questions.


1. In Punishment, Hans Hubermann receives his acceptance into the NSDAP and is then drafted into the German Army.  Do you feel there were ulterior motives? Was Hans being punished for helping the Jew or was he being drafted because they needed more people? How is this like/unlike Alex Steiner's drafting?

2. On p. 428-429, Liesel observes Rosa Hubermann hugging Hans' accordion. What does this tell Liesel about Rosa? Did it give you a new perspective on the character you didn't have before?

3. On p. 440, Rudy & Liesel place bread on the road knowing the Jews being marched to Dachau will find it. Do you think Rudy would have always done something like this or do you think his defiance was borne of a specific incident in the book? 

4. Also on p. 440, it says:

In the tree shadows, Liesel watched the boy. How things had changed, from fruit stealer to bread giver. His blond hair, although darkening, was like a candle. She heard his stomach grow--and he was giving people bread.
Was this Germany?
Was this Nazi Germany?

How would you answer those last two questions?

5. What was the significance of Max's sketch book? Did you enjoy The Word Shaker?

6. What do you think happens after the book? Did Liesel stay with the Hermanns or does she live with Alex Steiner? Do you think Liesel eventually marries Max?

7. What did you like/didn't you like about the Week 4 reading selection? How did you feel at the end of the book? Is there anything not covered in the above discussion questions that you would like to discuss?


8. Discuss the symbolism of Death as the omnicsient narrator of the novel. What are Death's feelings for each victim? Describe Death's attempt to resist Liesel. Death states, "I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both" (page 491). What is ugly and beautiful about Liesel, Rosa and Hans Hubermann, Max Vandenburg, Rudy Steiner, and Mrs. Hermann? Why is Death haunted by humans? (Question 1 in Reader's Guide)

9. Compare and contrast the lives of Liesel and Max Vandenbrug. How does Max's life give Liesel purpose? At what point to Liesel and Max become friends? Max gives Liesel a story called "The Standover Man" for her birthday. What is the significance of this story? (Question 7 in Reader's Guide)

10. Describe Liesel's friendship with Rudy. How does their friendship change and grow throughout the novel? Death says that Rudy doesn't offer his friendship "for free" (page 51). What does Rudy want from Liesel? Discuss Death's statement, "The only thing worse than a boy who hates you [is] a boy who loves you" (page 52). Why is it difficult for Liesel to love Rudy? Discuss why Liesel tells Mr. Steiner that she kissed Rudy's dead body. (Question10 in Reader's Guide)

11. How does Zusak use the literary device of foreshadowing to pull the reader into the story? (Question 11 in Reader's Guide)

*12. Death gives a lot away about the ending of the book in his narration. Death explains (p. 497):
Again, I offer you a glimpse of the end. perhaps it's to soften the blow for later, or to better prepare myself for the telling.
Now that you've finished the entire book, how did that effect how you felt about the ending? 
*Question 12 was member submitted.

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