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The Use Of Foreshadowing, Irony, And Symbolism In The Book Thief

1212 words - 5 pages

Hallie Melville
The Book Thief Short Essay: The use of foreshadowing, irony, and symbolism in The Book Thief
4/17/14

In The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, the narrator uses foreshadowing, irony, and symbolism. “Here’s a small fact, you are going to die” (3). As readers, we are engaged in the story because we are part of the story. The narrator, who is a personified death, is referring to the readers when he says “you”. Here, it is foreshadowed that many people, including the reader, will die in the near future. This is verbally ironic because death refers to this as a “small fact”, even though the subject of death is usually considered a significant and sensitive topic. This statement ...view middle of the document...

Here, it is foreshadowed that Rudy
Steiner, Liesel’s best friend, will die in an unexpected and tragic way. The other pieces of the puzzle are found later in the book, when we discover that Rudy was hit by a bomb. This foreshadowing adds to the thematic idea of hopelessness because as we see the happy moments between Liesel and Rudy, we know they will not last. Finally, the most significant instance of foreshadowing found in The Book Thief is when death says, “Rudy Steiner slept. Mama and Papa slept. Frau Holtzapfel, Frau Diller. Tommy Muller. All sleeping. All dying. Only one person survived” (498). Here, it is being foreshadowed that almost everyone in Liesel’s life will die, and she will be the only survivor. Suspense and tension are is created for the reader at this moment because this foreshadowing an extremely important event. Liesel is soon to be left with no one at her side, so this plugs into the thematic idea of loneliness. Using foreshadowing, Death creates thematic ideas and engages the reader into the story.
There are specific occurrences of irony used in the Book Thief that affect the reading experience and dig in deeper to the novel’s thematic ideas. For example, situational irony is shown in Liesel’s first act of thievery. She steals a book called “The Gravedigger's Handbook”. Liesel finds this book buried in the snow and gets a strange sense to take it, even though she can’t read a word of German. This leaves the reader wondering what else she will steal, and if she will ever possess the ability to read. This first theft is like a virus, and leads to the stealing of other books even though she remains barely literate. Showing up again and again throughout the novel, this shows a thematic idea of theft. Next, irony is shown when the Hubermanns allow Max Vandenburg, a young Jewish man, to hide from the Nazi’s in their basement. Not many characters in the book are aware of this happening, which makes this dramatic irony because the readers know more than the characters. This use of irony in the novel adds to the thematic idea of courage, because not many Germans would be brave enough to hide a Jew during this time. Hans, Rosa, and the readers know that if the Hubermanns are caught carrying out this selfless act, there will be extreme consequences. Finally, verbal irony is shown when death says, “It kills me sometimes, how people die” (464). This is ironic because even...

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