The Book Thief
Literary or Character Analysis Essay on The Book Thief
A literary or character analysis essay requires you to interpret the text and support your argument
and ideas solely with evidence from the text. DO NOT use outside sources for this assignment.
You must stay grounded in the text – everything you say must be supported with specific
evidence from the text (words, lines or phrases) and cited with the page number. The “text”
in this case is the novel, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.
A plan our outline is essential for success so it is required and must be approved by me and
attached to your final essay.
At the start of your introduction, you must identify the novel and author. Then introduce a
universal idea or truth and connect it to the novel in terms of a theme. From there, explain how
you are going to prove your thesis (the three or more main ideas you will use to demonstrate how
the author explores that truth). Your clear, concise, and edited final draft must be 500-800 words
in length.
You may do either a literary analysis or character analysis.
In the case of a character analysis essay, you can demonstrate how the development of a
particular character (or characters) exemplifies a particular universal truth (which also is a
Possible topics:
1. The Book Thief is rich in colour imagery and symbolism. Discuss how the colours speak
to character, plot or theme. Consider what the colours symbolize and why Zusak had
Death see the colours he did and so vividly and details.
2. The novel is rich with dynamic and archetypical characters that bring the story alive with
vibrant variety. Through these characters, Zusak skillfully reveals the many experiences,
or stories, of Germany and the German people during World War II. Discuss how Markus
Zusak dispels the single story or monomyth many have come to accept as the tale of Nazi
Germany through the characters and characterization.
3. Discuss how a particular theme –i.e.: hope, loss, death, the ability of humans to be
horribly cruel and destructive and self-sacrificing and love unconditionally often at the
same time, the danger of the single story or believing stereotypes blindly, the power of
words – is explored through literary devices such as allusion, symbol, motif.
4. Discuss the use of personification in the novel and how it enriches meaning. Consider
why Zusak has Death personify virtually everything when he describes it.
The Book Thief
5. Discuss how the growth/development of a particular character reflects a theme in the
6. According to Zusak, Death sees all time simultaneously, or, at least, Death sees it
differently than humans do. As a result, Death plays with time in his narration of The
Book Thief flashing forward and back frequently and often revealing too much yet not
enough in the process. Discuss the use of flash forwards and flashbacks and how they
impact the plot, and meaning, and reader.
7. Discuss the effectiveness of having Death, as presented by Zusak, as the narrator.
Consider the characterization of Death, how he has Death tell the story, and how this
characterization breaks with stereotypes.
8. From the very beginning of the novel, with the characterization of Death, to the end,
Zusak crafts a story that provokes the reader to question their assumptions and reflect on
their biases and prejudices. Discuss the literary devices Markus Zusak utilizes to do this.
Consider also when stereotypes are not broken and why.
9. Discuss symbols and/or motifs in the novel and how they relate to a theme or universal
truth explored in the novel.
This literary essay will be evaluated using the Essay Marking Scheme and Checklist that was
given to you early in the semester. Please use your copy as a guide.
The outline MUST be submitted and approved BEFORE you write your first draft. This outline
will be due on Monday 26 May 2014 at the beginning of class.
The final draft will be due on Monday 7 June 2014 at the end of the day.
NOTE: If you want me to proofread and edit your rough draft, you MUST submit it to me no
later than Wednesday June 3rd.
You will submit this assignment to as well as submit a hard copy with your
approved outline and the Essay Marking Scheme to me.