Jackie In The Book Thief by Markus

Jackie ReidMs. Van SpankerenEnglish 10 H – F18 December 2017Safe HavenArt, it comes in many shapes and sizes. To some people it is their outlet, their escape to get away from the struggles they are presented with. In The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Hans, Max, and Liesel are faced with pain of their own. Although they are often faced with unbearable circumstances, Hans’ playing of the accordion, Max’s writing and drawing, and Liesel’s ability to read, help them to overcome even the worst of their sorrows. Markus Zusak illustrates the importance of how art can provide someone the greatest form of comfort during times of sorrow.Hans’ accordion throughout the novel becomes a source of comfort and a symbol of hope for Liesel and Rosa. When Liesel first moves in with the Hubermanns, she is afflicted with non-stop nightmares about her brother’s death. She would “wake up swimming in her bed, screaming and drowning in the flood of sheets,” but she soon finds great comfort in Hans’ power of art, his ability to play the accordion (36). His talent cheers Liesel up and comes to replace her feelings of pain from her brother’s death to a newfound safety in the instrument. Through his accordion, Hans is continually able to express himself, making him into a strong and hopeful person for others and for himself. Soon after Hans’ forced departure to Essen, the accordion never once leaves Rosa’s sight, even at night when she is all alone. “Rosa Hubermann was sitting at the edge of the bed with her husband’s accordion tied to her chest” (420). For Rosa in particular it becomes a source of comfort and a representation of Hans himself. To Liesel, she knew that, “mama would be walking around with the imprint of an accordion on her body” (429). Rosa keeps the instrument nearby, because to her, keeping the accordion close to her heart means keeping Hans close to her heart. When Liesel finds Rosa sitting at the edge of the bed holding the accordion close but never daring to play a note, she realizes how much Hans truly means to her. In a way, Rosa believes the accordion is sacred and no one could possibly play it the way Hans could. She sees it as a sign of comfort that Hans, the silver eyed man, has to come back to Himmel Street to play his accordion once more. To some, the accordion could be a reminder of great loss, but it contains a story within it. The accordion serves as another reminder of the novel’s argument that literature, music, and other forms of art can provide opulence in times of immense pain.In Max’s life, writing and drawing becomes a distraction and a safe haven from Hitler,  one of the biggest sources of his pain. The most daunting of all being the pain of having to leave his family, and hide in the Hubermanns basement. During the second air raid on Himmel Street, Max is left alone in the house once again. The first time there was a raid he takes the opportunity to look outside, this time the sky he sees is “only that one tonight” (384). This quote refers to the art of a dripping sun he created more than a year earlier. Max seeks refuge in his artwork and uses it as an escape from the pain he experiences in life. Writing and drawing soon becomes one of the greatest gifts Liesel has ever received from Max, coming in the form of The Word Shaker. Through the book, he suggests that words are the most powerful force there is, not Hitler’s guns, money or some other instrument he has to take over the world. The story signifies the way Liesel uses words to create a safe space for herself in the midst of Nazism, and how Max was able to find shelter in her words as well.In the novel, Liesel is faced with multiple life-changing events such as coping with her brothers death and moving in with a new family, but soon discovers a new way to subsist. For Liesel, everything horrible happens to her in a sequence of events, starting with the death of her brother, Werner. Liesel and Werner Meminger are on their way to meet their soon adoptive parents, when Werner just a 6 year old boy, unexpectedly dies. Taking her son’s body from the train and into the snow-filled town, Liesel’s mother knew he would have to be buried here, but for Liesel, “the town was nameless, and it was there that her brother Werner, was buried two days later” (22). After digging at his grave until her hands are cracked and bloody, her mother painstakingly drags Liesel away from the grave. This is where she sees it, exactly 20 meters away from the burial site. It is black and rectangular embedded into the snow, a book with silver writing on it, The Grave Digger’s Handbook. The book thief had struck for the first time, prompting her not only to steal more books, but also learn how to read along the way. In fact, without her foster father, Hans Hubermann and his dedication, she may have never been able to read. Eventually, Hans and Liesel trade sleep for reading and writing calling it, “the midnight class, even though it commenced at around two in the morning” (39). Liesel uses The Gravedigger’s Handbook as a source of comfort from her brother’s passing made possible by her reading. The book represents great friendship and Liesel’s journey of learning to read, which soon serves as a comfort to not only her but to many.Not only did reading serve as a comfort to Liesel, but also to all of Himmel Street and even death. The first air raid on Himmel Street is a false alarm, but the second one is very real. On September 19, the Hubermann’s radio starts listing possible targets, Molching being one of them. Again, people take cover, the Hubermann’s seeking shelter in the Fielders’ basement. The room filled with fear and deathly thoughts, is interrupted by Liesel’s reading of The Whistler. Rudy being the first to start listening, gathers his brothers and sisters attention to listen as well. Soon “by page three, everyone was silent but Liesel” (381). Even after the sirens claimed they were safe, Frau Holtzapfel tells everyone to be quiet and exclaims, “There are only two paragraphs till end of the chapter” (382). The book thief continued to read not only at the second air raid, but the third one as well. At the bombing of Munich on March 9 and 10, Liesel willingly read 54 mouth drying pages knowing it relieved everyone from their dark-filled thoughts. Then came the destructive, unexpected, deadly air raid. Liesel is in the basement, “reading through the story of her own life, checking for mistakes”,  as Himmel street becomes flattened (498). Under the rubble, The Book Thief was stepped of several times and thrown in a garbage truck, but not quickly enough that death didn’t have an opportunity to grab it. Books didn’t just serve as a story to death, but rather a source of consolation from his brutal work, The Book Thief being one of them. Throughout the novel, Zusak suggests the significance of art and the impact and comfort it gives to others. Not only in the book but as well as in the real world, art provides people with encouragement, and it helps them find their own strength to defeat whatever battle they are faced with. This type of constructive art is used in The Book Thief. Hans’ ability to play the accordion, Max’s books and drawings, and Liesel’s ability to read never fail to bring peace during unbearable circumstances. All three of these characters and their art provide others with a safe haven from the destruction happening around them. Not only does art help those around, but it also provides sanity and motivation to keep going in hard times.