In Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, we view the events and tragedies surrounding Nazi Germany through the eyes of an unexpected narrator-death. We as the reader learn of death’s moral’s he carries with him each day and of the perspective from which he views the world and the events therein. We get a sense of an unpredicted personality from Death himself and our opinions on death are ultimately changed. Death brings to the table a new take on the tragedies experienced by many in Nazi Germany and is unsupportive of the chaos and heartbreak Hitler’s army is creating in Europe. The narrator is a witty, thoughtful, and moral character throughout the book.
Death carries with himself on a daily basis burdens, desires, and most importantly his personal moral compass. Death’s moral compass, surprisingly to the reader, consists of a few things that a normal, loving human would consider their moral compass-empathy, observation, peace, and admiration. Death feels for the victims of Hitler’s reign and takes their side, while at the same time ‘working’ for him in collecting the souls of those of which have had their lives stolen by evil. Death also values observation as he watches closely everything that goes on throughout the war, collecting the many unlucky souls, while leaving side notes for the reader throughout the novel. In the introductory chapter the narrator cuts away from the text and inserts a side note. It states: “*** AN OBSERVATION *** A pair of train guards. A pair of grave diggers.” (22). Death is one to take note of his surroundings and analyze them, giving the reader an alternative perspective to the characters in the story, as almost an act of dramatic irony. Death is also, unexpectedly by most, opposed to the termination of life. This may sound unreasonable but death almost resents himself, however, collecting the souls of the lost is simply his occupation and it is necessary for him to do so. This doesn’t mean he enjoys it or takes pride in his job. Lastly, Death admires the living, thriving people of the world and regrets taking their privileges and happiness away from them. He admires the people who work hard and stay strong throughout such extreme times, never giving up on life or giving into well, him. He shares the same views as many, however they do not realize it, associating him with evil and mistaking him with negativity.
With Death as the main focus and narrator of a story of courage, knowledge, and tragedy, Markus Zusak demonstrates a newfound perspective on life and death themselves. Through strong personification of the one thing humans fear most, the reader’s perspective on death is altered to sympathy and understanding of Death himself. Death is simply a caring being, who carries with him a moral compass of which would unexpectedly be associated with someone of his caliber.