Death & all his friends : narration in Markus Zusak's The book thief.

Date of Award


Document Type



College of Liberal Arts

Degree Name

Bachelor in Arts


In Markus Zusaks 2006 novel The Book Thief, an embodied but inhuman Death tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a book thief who acquires language, forges her own morality, navigates adolescence and befriends Max Vandenburg, the struggling Jewish fist-fighter hiding in her basement (Zusak 302; 195). This thesis, entitled Death & All His Friends: Narration in Markus Zusaks The Book Thief, analyzes the novel through the lenses of Holocaust, trauma and narrative theory. The first chapter, Death & All His Friends, characterizes Deaths unusual narrative style as well as his intimate relationship with the reader and relies on Cathy Caruth and Dori Laubs work with Holocaust survivors to frame Deaths roles as both a wounded survivor of human cruelty and a witness able to make sense of human suffering. Words Are Life, the second chapter, considers Liesels literacy using Mikhail Bakhtins model for the acquisition of language and compares and contrasts the book thief to other young, moral narrators including Huckleberry Finn and Holden Caulfield in order to argue that individually inflected language serves as a powerful intermediary between the individual and society. The final chapter, The Jewish Fist-Fighter, examines Max Vandenburgs imaginative understanding of grief and loss as presented through two stories he writes for Liesel and contends that these stories, along with an incident Death refers to as The Swapping of Nightmares (Zusak 228), constitute trauma scholar Kim van Kaams concept of representation and help the Jewish man and marginalized girl to create their own identities. Collectively, this thesis, through the study of language and trauma, describes and explores the levels of narration provided by Death, Liesel and Max.