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The Weight of the Words - The Book Thief

Words are one of the most powerful means of communication. Throughout The Book Thief, Markus Zusak displays the power of words and the impact they have on the world. From the positive impact words have for those who need hope to the negative way they can affect relationships, the weight of words is exhibited. Zusak’s novel The Book Thief demonstrates that words have more power over people than even the sophisticated weapons of Nazi Germany.

Zusak displays words have the power to deliver safety and hope.

Hans utilizes the comforting power words have over Liesel to calm her down, “Don’t worry, Liesel … just keep reading” (Zusak 105). Hans understands that books provide Liesel with the peace that even a father figure cannot provide. Words find a way to communicate with Liesel on a different, intangible level, which is what ultimately calms her while she is reading. Liesel realizes that words can bring peace even through a bombing because even “the youngest kids were soothed by her voice” (Zusak 301).

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Liesel’s words distract and shield those in the bomb shelter from what was taking place outside. She helps bring those in the bomb shelter closer together using words; calming everyone one down. Words cause Liesel to stay safe as “she survived [only] because she was sitting in the basement reading through the story of her own life” (Zusak 498). Liesel was the only one in her community to survive the unexpected bombing because the words saved her life. The power of words impacts Liesel’s survival demonstrating the magnitude of power they possess.

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Words have the power to reassure those in times of need as displayed by Markus Zusak.

While words provide comfort, they also have the power to tear down and hurt meaningful relationships. Liesel is overcome by anger and “[sprays] her words directly into [Ilsa Hermann’s] eyes [showcasing] the injury of words. Yes, the brutality of words” (Zusak 262). Words can possess the inhumanity of even the best weapons. Liesel abuses this power to take her emotions out on Ilsa, demonstrating that even a small girl like Liesel can cause pain to those who are superior and in charge of her. Liesel exclaims “I hate the Führer” (Zusak 115) but instead of comforting Liesel Hans “slapped Liesel Meminger squarely in the face” (Zusak 116). Hans realizes he had to hurt Liesel to keep her safe from “spitting out her words” in anger, even if that means hurting their relationship at first. To Liesel, her connection to Hans breaks momentarily, due to the aggressiveness he displayed towards her. Due to the misuse of words, relationships throughout The Book Thief fall apart.

Zusak displays that the use of words alters beliefs. The words of the Nazi captivated Liesel and ” halfway through the speech Liesel surrendered…the word communist seized her” (Zusak 110). Nazis used words to deceive and outsmart others to sustain the constant oppression they caused. Germans just like Liesel gave into their entrapping words causing a whole nation to believe a lie. Hitler defeated Max by asking Germans to join together and “climb up in here so that we can defeat [Max] together…Max Vandenburg could feel the fists of an entire nation” (Zusak 254). Hitler convinced the German citizens that Jews are the enemy through the power of words and persuasion. Max feels each German citizen ban together, all united in the words Hitler deceived them with. Through the power of words, a whole population’s beliefs shift.

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The Weight of the Words - The Book Thief. (2020, Oct 23). Retrieved from

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