Character Analysis Through Song

 

Hans:

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Throughout the novel, Hans and Liesel formed a strong bond of mutual trust between them. Liesel gradually opened up to him after she arrived on Himmel Street in a terrified and abandoned state. Hans became a father figure for Liesel and I believe she really looked up to him. He helped her through her nightmares and taught her to read in the process. For example, after one particular nightmare and reading lesson, Liesel began to talk about her brother saying, “‘His name was Werner'” (Zusak 87). Werner died on the way to Himmel Street and was a component of Liesel’s nightmares. This quote is significant because it showed that she felt comfortable opening up and confiding in Hans. This is an example of Liesel’s growth and Hans’s character. He has sacrificed a lot for Liesel by rolling countless cigarettes to be able to afford books for her and she believed he always knew the right thing to say. Hans told Liesel, “‘With a smile like that you don’t need eyes'” (Zusak 68). He’s said she’s beautiful, as I believe he would tell any daughter of his own. This is also an example of the bond that grew between them. Liesel even appreciated Hans even when he wasn’t physically there. One night when getting a bath Liesel, “‘. . . would sniff her arm and smile as the water cooled around her'” (Zusak 72). She finds comfort in the way he smells because he made her feel happy and safe.

The song we chose to represent Hans Hubermann was John Mayer’s “Daughters”. While the true application and purpose of the lyrics can be debated (as lyrics in almost any song can be), the subdued acoustics in the background remind me of Hans’s calm and gentle nature.  The song’s chorus preached, “Fathers be good to your daughters,” and Hans is truly good to Liesel. He stayed up late with her, teaching and assuaging her fears. He’s made sacrifices and protected her.

Liesel:

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The song we chose for Liesel was “Conversations” by Watsky. This songs showed aspects of Liesel’s innocence, growth, and some of the hardships she went through. The song is touching with a simple piano riff throughout it. The story in the song was about a young boy who asked questions out of fear of the future. As it progresses, the boy matured and realized the future can be hard, but he doesn’t have to be scared of it and he should be thankful for what he has now. I believe this can be applied to Liesel as well. In the beginning of the novel, Liesel is timid and petrified. She refuses to get out of the car once she arrives at her foster home and her new mother and father struggled to coax her into the house. For example, once out of the car Leisel clung to the gate and, “‘A gang of tears trudged from her eyes as she held on and refused to go inside'” (Zusak 28). Liesel is scared of the future which reminds me of the first verse of the song:

“I remember vividly
My tears dropping on the grey carpet on the top step
Pops giving me his best guess
Me confessing the burning question stressing and concerning me and
Turning me to a wet mess
It’s probably nothing
I get it, I’m aware
I know it’s probably stupid to be scared
But these days are flying past us and nobody seems to care”

As Liesel started to mature and grow up, she became more comfortable with her new family and life. She began to trust Hans and felt less apprehensive of the future. She’s fallen into a secure routine collecting washing, cleaning the door, and playing with Rudy. Her bouts of elation are mostly composed of stealing. After she stole The Shoulder Shrug, Leisel feared someone had seen her take it. Death remarks, “‘Eleven-year-old paranoia was powerful. Eleven-year-old relief was relief was euphoric'” (Zusak 132) when she believed she has gotten away with it. Another example of happiness from Liesel was when she was stealing apples with Arthur Berg and Rudy. She and Rudy find a pfenning on the ground and Death described it as “‘Pure excitement'” (Zusak 155). Liesel’s happiness can be applied the verse at 2:04:

“Stop, can’t you see?
Every meal that you paid for me
All this power to chase a dream
All this privilege not to crave riches
But it’s plain to me the key
fact is it’s easy to act like cash means jack shit if
You never lacked it
And the greatest honor I could have is to make a buck 
and pass back a
Fraction of all the happiness you gave to me
And I will never make you live where you don’t aim to be”

You can see the stark changes between this verse and the last, as you can see changes in Liesel’s character as well.

Rosa:

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The song we chose for Rosa is “Tough Love” by Jessie Ware. Rosa was fond of cussing and yelling and as Death said she,  “‘ . . . was good a being furious”‘ (Zusak 32). Death also described her as having, “‘ . . .the unique ability to aggravate almost anyone she ever met. But she did love Liesel Meminger. Her way of showing it just happened to be strange. It involved bashing her with wooden spoon and words at various intervals'” (Zusak 35). She shows both her husband and Liesel “tough love.” She cared for her family by making any money she can and providing food even when it’s scarce. Though she didn’t express her love to Liesel in the way Hans does, it’s evident she cared about those around her. For example, when Hans’s son called him a coward, it clearly hurt Hans and he ran after him. Thankfully Rosa understood and, “‘When he reappeared inside, Mama fixed her gaze on him, but no words were exchanged. She didn’t admonish him at all, which, as you know, was highly unusual'” (Zusak 106). This showed that Rosa knew when to hold her tongue, which I believe is how she displayed kindness. In a similar example, when Max arrived at the Hubermann household Rosa did not get angry with Hans, despite the fact he has put the whole family in danger. This is why Death deemed her to be a good person for a crisis.

The song’s chorus sang, “That’s called tough love” and Rosa showed her family affection, just not in the most conventional way.

Death:

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Death is something that everyone is taught to fear. It meant the end. In The Book Thief, Death is personified and made into a character. Death is the overall seer that knows what has happened and what will happen to our characters. Death also impacts the reading experience of the book when he says, “‘You are going to die,'” (Zusak 3). The nonchalance that Death carries with the topic of dying is iconic for the character. The way Death sees life is not only by seeing the humans that live, but the colors around them. Markus Zusak tells the readers this in the quote, “‘First the colors. Then the humans,'” (Zusak 3).

“These are the colors of life
Colors of life
So step out the routine and open your eyes”

In “Colors of Life” by Coone, it is talked about not only seeing the simple forms of color, but color in everything. Not only do the lyrics match Death’s look upon life, but the beat matches the feel that Death gives to the story. Death gives a dark feeling, as well as a form of a lighter feeling. Death’s humor and sarcasm bring a twist to the iconic character that is Death which can lighten the mood of the story at times. The beat in our song starts out intense and dark, and this is a mood that Death gives most of the time. Right before the lyrics start in the song though the beat becomes lighter. It is never light enough though to give a happy tone, but it parallels with sarcastic and humorous tone that Death brings to the story.

“From the beautiful skylines
And the intense sunshine
From the darkness in the night
And the stars scattering light
From the music we love
And the nights we dream of
These our the colors of life”

Not only does the lyrics in “Colors of Life” by Coone fit the character that is Death, but the tone of the song does as well. The dark tone that carries throughout the song is the same dark tone that Death carries throughout The Book Thief. The lyrics talk about the colors of life that are in things other than a sunrise or sunset. Those different colors are exactly what Death talks about.

Max:

Max

To live was a struggle for Max. No matter where he would turn he would be faced with hatred, but when he found the Hubermann’s he found somewhere that he could be safer. To get to the Hubermann’s meant traveling in plain sight. He, a Jew, would have to put himself in the public’s eye for everyone to see before he could make it to his safe haven. When he finally he did make it to Hans he could not stay with him in the beginning, so they sent him to live in an old storage room. He was starving and he was ready to give up and did not know whether or not being found would be bad. Max never did give up though.  This is where the song really fits. In the beginning of the song “Reaper” by Sia it is talked about struggling and wanting to give up, but deciding against it.

“Broke down, thought that I would drown
Hope that I’ve been found, ‘fore I hit the ground
Sun rays out the corner of my eye, hey
Saw you weeping, saw you creeping
Saw you sneaking in the shadow’s dawn
I feel so strong
Saw you out the corner of my eye”

Max did not only decide against wanting found, for he wanted nothing of the sort he started fighting back. While in the Hubermann’s basement he grew very close with Liesel and this fueled his want to fight Hitler. To keep himself busy he started day dreaming about physically fighting Hitler like he would do when he was younger. He also started doing pushups to keep up his strength and keep himself ready. The chorus of our song talks about fighting of the reaper and winning. This is something that hopefully Max can do at the end of the book.

“You came to take me away
So close I was to heaven’s gates
But no baby, no baby, not today
Oh, you tried to track me down
You followed me like the darkest cloud
But no baby, no baby, not today”

“Reaper” by Sia fits very well with the struggles and character developments that is seen in Max throughout the story. Him wanting to give in, but then deciding that he still needed to fight back. That is what makes Max, Max.

Rudy:

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The song that matches Rudy Steiner the best is “Geronimo” by Sheppard. Jesse Owens meant a lot to America when he won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympic Games that took place in Berlin, Germany. When he proved Hitler’s notion, that the blonde haired, blue eyed Aryan’s were the best, to be completely wrong. Though it is shown that not only did Jesse Owens effect America, but a certain young German boy. His name was Rudy Steiner, and Jesse Owens was his role model. Rudy aspired to be like Jesse one day, and he had even once tried to be. He had covered himself in coal and ran a track trying to imagine how it felt. This is the first time that Rudy ever showed the readers how innocent he was. When his father had found him, and told him that he needed to be grateful that he was nothing like Jesse Owens, “‘I know son – but you’ve got beautiful blond hair and big, safe blue eyes. You should be happy with that; is that clear?'” (Zusak 61). The eighth verse in the song relates to Rudy finally understanding what his father was talking about that day.

“Well I’m just a boy,
With a broken toy,
All lost and coy,
(At the curtains of the waterfall)
So it’s here I stand,
As a broken man,
But I’ve found my friend,
At the curtains of the waterfall”

The second verse of the song fits perfectly with when Rudy and Liesel complained about only receiving, “‘One lousy apple?'” (Zusak 275). After stealing so many for Viktor, Liesel and Rudy thought they deserved more. Immediately after Rudy’s complaint Viktor was on top of him, and had him pinned to the ground. Viktor had his knees on Rudy’s arms and his hands were around Rudy’s neck. When Viktor was on top of Rudy Liesel spoke up saying that he was hurting Rudy, but Rudy shot back quickly that he was not being hurt. He did not want Liesel’s help. That is where another part of the song played in nicely.

“When I lost it,
Yeah you held my hand,
But I tossed it,
Didn’t understand,
You were waiting,
As I dove into the waterfall”

Rudy’s lose of his innocence and his struggle to admit that he needed help is what fueled me to pick this song for Rudy. The lyrics fit Rudy’s story very well.