Characterization in the Book Thief

The characterisation in the Book Thief


At the beginning of the text, Liesel’s presented as a sensitive but strong young girl. We learn this when early on in the story when she finds a book hidden in the snow at her brother’s gravesite, she steals the book and holds onto it as a memory of her family until late in the book where it comes to use as Hans teaches her to read. This shows us how determined she is to hold onto the memory of her brother as well as how brave she is to steal and book and keep it just to learn how to read. When Liesel meets Rudy she’s very closed of and throughout the book continues to build up the wall between herself and Rudy. This happens until Liesel finds him on the ground dead, she then crouches down over his body, calling for him, beginning death to give her another chance, regretting how she treated Rudy. This was a changing point in the book, this is where we first see Liesel actually break down her walls, where she actually treats Rudy like a human and not like a nuisance.


Rudy lives in a house with five siblings as well as his mother and father in a time where there is not much food around and for a young growing boy, Rudys left hungry the whole time. Rudy presents himself as a somewhat motivated but ignorant young boy. We see this when he covers himself in charcoal pretending to be his idol, Jessie Owens. “He smeared the charcoal on, nice and thick, till he was covered in black. Even his hair received a once-over.”  He wanted to be the fastest runner in the world and at this point in time it was Jessie Owen’s, Rudy didn’t give a second thought to the colour of Jessie’s skin. “I just wish I was like Jesse Owens, Papa”. Being the same age once Rudy meets Liesel he doesn’t leave her side, much to her disliking. Eventually, they became an unbreakable duo, from walking to school together to committing crimes. He cares a lot about her even though she shuts him out till basically the day Rudy dies.


Hans has recently become Leisels new guardian, to Liesel he is known as “Papa”. We learn early on in the book how Hans resembles a very gentle giant, he’s a tall man who doesn’t speaks softly and with purpose. He treats Liesel with kindness and because of this death reveals how Hans is the one Liesel loved the most. We see the kindness when Hans goes out of his way to help Liesel wit her reading and writing after she was teased at school. When Liesel has nightmares Hans is always there to comfort her back to sleep. Hans is very creative, we see this in his music with the accordion. Hans disagrees with the Nazi party but does things like join it just to protect his family.


Rosa is first shown when Liesel is being dropped off to her, she holds a cold and stubborn presence as she demands she was assigned a boy as well as a girl. Rosa is married to Hans and is Liesels new “mama”. She’s harsh on Liesel fro the beginning, calling here Saumensch (meaning swine). Washing and ironing for the more rich people is her source of income and usually gets angry at Liesel and Hans for not doing enough around the house. As a result Liesel has to walk way out of town to deliver the washing.  Through out the book we learn so much more about Rosa. With deaths help we learn that Rosa is only tough on the ones she loves the most, she treats them harshly because she just wants to keep them safe. When Hans was taken away Rosa hugged his accordion each night beginning for him to come home and hold her once again. In fact when Hans returns he is able to play the accordion with Rosa across the table happy as she could be.


Max comes into the book much later than the other characters but still seems to win over Liesels heart and even gets Rosa to take care of him. He is a Jew who is on the run looking for somewhere to hide. hans has always owed Max’s family as in world war 1 without Max’s father, hans would not be here. Max is risking his own and everyone else’s life in the Hubermann house everyday he is there, but what other choice did he have. Liesel bonds with max over the nightmares they share about their past and also the safety they see in Hans.

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