80 pages 2 hours read

Markus Zusak

The Book Thief

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2005

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Character Analysis


The Grim Reaper, Death personified, is the narrator of The Book Thief. He occupies a unique position regarding the events in the story because he is immortal. As a character, he has no fear of the end of his existence, so he can watch lives begin and end with a detached perspective untainted by fear. Despite his omniscience, he is not callous about the souls he collects. For the most part, he seems bemused by the violence and virtue that humans display by turns.

During the war years, he projects a sense of being overwhelmed by the carnage and gravitates to Liesel because of her determination to find inspiration through words. Because Death is once removed from the bloody experience of World War II, he can articulate it as a spectacle unfolding before him. He functions as both the voice of the author and the reader as each attempts to process the atrocities committed during that brief period of time. In the end, he reaches for hope in the same way that any onlooker might when observing the horrible events of the past half-century.