Kalthoff 1 Kathryn Kalthoff Mrs. Barnes Honors Language Arts 8 28 September 2015 Digging Deeper Into Defining Themes Books, although they may seem different on the cover, can be very similar in theme. This becomes evident in both The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson. In Zusak’s story, a girl named Liesel lives with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, after leaving her mother and losing her brother. She encounters many trials as a child and becomes a thief of books. In The Great Gilly Hopkins, the author introduces a feisty and rebellious young foster child named Gilly. She moves from home to home looking for a family that is right for her. In the novels mentioned the authors use symbolism, settings, and character descriptions to relay a theme that people have defining moments as children that can impact the rest of their life. Both the authors of The Great Gilly Hopkins and The Book Thief use objects from the main characters' former life as symbols throughout the book. Paterson inserts the symbol of Gilly's picture of her mother. This image seems to drive Gilly's personality and gives her hope of finding her birth mother someday. The author writes, "'For my beautiful Galadriel, I will always love you.' She wrote that to me, Gilly told herself as she did each time she looked at it, only to me... The word mother triggered something deep inside her stomach" (9). Through this quote the author reveals that a defining moment in Gilly's childhood has made this memory of her mother unfathomably special to her. In comparison, in The Book Thief, Liesel finds a book at the site of her deceased brother's grave. This book, The Gravedigger's Handbook, is deliberately placed in Kalthoff 2 the story by Zusak to symbolize a turning point in Liesel's life. "It didn't really matter what the book was about. It was what it meant that was more important. 'The book's meaning: the last time she saw her brother; the last time she saw her mother'"(38). This quote perfectly illustrates how much this book meant to Liesel as the last tangible memory of her former family. The settings conveyed by both Zusak and Paterson throughout the novels help to support the theme of monumental childhood moments. In The Book Thief the author utilizes the truth that Liesel is "a girl. In Nazi Germany. How fitting that she was discovering the power of words" (147). Liesel learning the impact that words can have on a culture in such a propaganda-based world that she was living in is, as an understatement, a marvelous coincidence. This setting will play a vital role in Liesel's childhood experiences. In contrast to the location in The Book Thief, the setting of Gilly's new foster home is very sangfroid and quiet. Even the disturbance that Gilly brings doesn't seem to shake the house. "The house... was old and brown with a porch that gave it a sort of potbelly... Inside it was dark and crammed with junk. Everything seemed to need dusting" (3-4). This example from the text demonstrates how this new, very calm place for Gilly could become a valuable part of defining moments that would happen there. While some might argue that childhood events cannot determine things in later life, they fail to realize that defining moments as children can have dramatic effect on lives. The people around children and their setting, although they may seem insignificant, can have impacts on their attitude and decisions in life. People have influencing factors on each other and these are shown at their peaks during childhood. Along with the people and places, the things in one's childhood that might hold a special meaning have a very large impact on them. Some readers may interpret this to mean the people, places, and things in a child's life would only have an impact on their childhood, but clearly that is false because these things can have an impact on Kalthoff 3 later life as well. An example of this is in the epilogue of The Book Thief where Death tells about how greatly Liesel was impacted by the events that occurred in her earlier life. The authors of both The Great Gilly Hopkins and The Book Thief incorporate character descriptions in their writing to convey a theme. In his novel, Zusak uses descriptions of Liesel and her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, to set a foundation for defining moments throughout the story. The author mentions Liesel’s “German blond” hair and “dangerous” brown eyes (31). She is also indirectly described as stubborn and headstrong. Hans is explained to be a tall, kind painter by trade, and his piano accordion skills are mentioned as well. His voice is described to be gentle, “as if slipping through a crowd” (33). In contrast, Rosa Hubermann is introduced as short, fiery, and calling everyone Saukerl or Saumensch, “especially the people she loved” (532). Theme becomes evident also through character development in Paterson’s novel. First introduced is Gilly, an eleven-year-old foster girl whose goal is to wreak havoc on each home that takes her in. In the story, she is under the care of Mrs. Maime Trotter who is very affectionate. From the point of view of Gilly, however, she looks like “a ‘Before’ body with an ‘After’ smile” (5). “Half a small face, topped with mussy brown hair and masked with thick metal-rimmed glasses, jutted out from behind Mrs. Totter’s mammoth hip” (4). This is how Gilly’s new foster brother, William Ernest, is described as by Paterson. These descriptions shed light on how valuable these characters were in Gilly and Liesel’s crucial childhood moments. Throughout the novels written by Zusak and Paterson a theme of monumental childhood moments or experiences affecting life is portrayed. Settings in both stories help to set the stage for the theme to come through. Likewise, symbols interwoven in the text make the theme more evident to readers. Character descriptions also provide insight for the reader to understand how important these principal moments are. Authors for both The Book Thief and The Great Gilly Kalthoff 4 Hopkins prove also that although books may seem different on their covers, their themes can be similar and quite impactful.