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The Effect of Simple Sentences in Book Thief Essay

In the novel, The Book Thief, Mark Zusak has Death, the narrator, retells a story that extends over years as well as many connecting events that affect each other. As a result, he uses simple sentences to disclose events that happened without elaborating on them. The simple sentences create an effect that balances the detailed explanation of each character’s internal conflict, along with showing the quick pace of the story. The author uses simple sentences to show the quick progression of events in the novel.

As the narrator recalls the main character’s childhood, he uses simple sentences to show the progressive state of World War II. For example, Death states, “1. World War Two begins” (Zusak 73). This reveals a historical event that takes place at the time. He then reveals that “The world talked it over.” and “Newspaper headlines reveled in it.” (Zusak 73). The author used consecutive, abrupt sentences to display events without elaborating on the specifics of it. Furthermore, this technique of succinct, continuous sentences allows the author to concentrate on how each character is internally and externally affected by this event. Additionally, the short sentences contribute to the quick pace of the major events and add emphasis on how they uncontrollably happen. WWII, a devastating war, with its blood soaked streets that had Death begrudgingly tread behind to collect an endless amount of starving souls. The author’s progressive sentences cause the audience to sympathize with the characters’ inability to stop, or even postpone, the terrible events that affect their lives. This use of simple sentences is again repeated with Death narrates, “Again, time passed. The war expanded.” (Zusak 196). The strong feelings of sympathy for the characters are again reinforced with the progressive short sentences. Along with progressiveness, the continuous sentences also provide a peaceful to suspenseful mood shift.

In the novel, the author’s uses of progressive sentences provide dynamic mood changes throughout the book. For example, Death narrates that “A few weeks passed. Soccer on Himmel Street. Another benign visit to the mayor’s house.” (Zusak 133). The listing of the trivial daily happenings on Himmel Street
provides a peaceful and calming mood. Calming but expectant. Due to WWII’s infamous history, the dramatic irony is that the readers are fully aware of the terrible events that shall come to pass in the characters’ lives. This lack of knowledge on exactly when it will happen creates suspense. These short trivial sentences imply that times moves on, even when tragedies happen. This is especially true in Liesel’s experience, her brush with death after surviving the bombing of Himmel Street. Despite the peacefulness, the mood inevitably shifts when Death narrates, “You don’t always get what you wish for. Especially in Nazi Germany.” (Zusak 196) These simple sentences shift the mood from peaceful and expectant to almost an impending doom. The simple sentences show the quick pace of action as the book progress. This action, along with the suspense, provided by simple sentences implies a tragic, however decided, fate of the characters. Each character’s internal struggle on his or her inability to stop the tragic events that happen plays a prominent role in the story’s conflict.

Throughout the progression of the novel, there is frequent use of consecutive simple sentences. These sentences retell the historical events that mar the characters’ peaceful times. Their consecutiveness adds an inevitable mood to the story; a shift from the earlier peaceful mood that they had provided earlier on. Additionally, the simple sentences also reflect the situation of the characters. Their successiveness shows the nonstop progress of the events in the novel, good or bad. They’re essential to making this novel what is it, a touching, relatable story that underlines acceptance of tragedies that happen in your life.

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