Formal Essay: The Book Thief
February 12, 2013
Topic 3: To what extent does a central character's struggle in a complex world reveal elements of human nature?
In Markus Zusak novel "The Book Thief", the author used the character of Max Vandenburg to develop the idea that humans will do anything to survive. Through him three elements of human nature were revealed. These three elements are guilt, perseverance and the fear of death. They were demonstrated through Max’s struggle to survive as a Jew in Nazi Germany, by his decisions, actions and feelings. Guilt is an element of human nature that is revealed as Max struggles to survive in Nazi Germany. To a great extent, humans generally feel guilty when leaving or putting the people they care about in danger, especially when they feel there is nothing they can do to make the situation better. To survive Max had to leave his family and go into hiding. Although he pretended that he didn’t want to leave, he was pushed out by the family and he felt “relief struggle inside him like an obscenity. It was something he did not want to feel…How could he?” (pg 193). The guilt he felt for leaving his family tortured him. He could not forgive himself for his decision to leave them behind. Therefore, when Walter brought news of his family’s disappearance, Max naturally felt even more guilt for leaving them behind and for surviving. “Living was living. The price was guilt and shame.” (pg 208). This became the main source of his nightmares. Later on in the novel, when Liesel asked him what he saw in his nightmares, he told her that he saw himself turning around and waving goodbye to his family. His guilt refused to let him go and kept visiting him in the form of nightmares. Another example in this book was when Max had just started hiding in the Hubermann household, he felt guilty for putting the Hubermanns in danger, “I am so selfish…coming here putting all of you in danger” (pg 218). He felt so selfish and...
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