2.1 Essay – The Book Thief

Analyse how language features were used to create a vivid setting

In the Book Thief written by Markus Zusak, language features are used to create a vivid setting, specifically in relation to colours. When language features are used in conjunction with colours it creates an intense and powerful image which allows the setting to become very vivid in the reader’s mind. Three colours would have been seen every single day in Nazi Germany: Red, White, and Black. Every street would have had these colours, representing a period of fear and death where the country was filled with hate; Red, White, and Black were the colours of the Nazi flag, Hitler explained the meaning of the flag in Mein Kampf “The red expressed the social thought underlying the movement. White the national thought. And the swastika signified the mission allotted to us-the struggle for the victory of Aryan mankind and at the same time the triumph of the ideal of creative work …” Although many people saw the flag symbolising something very different; the blood spilled by the German people represented the red, the SS uniforms the black, and coldness of Germany during this 12 year period represented by the white. Zusak has used these three colours effectively throughout the text with language features to create a setting that makes the story of Liesel Meminger the Book Thief even more memorable.

The first colour that is introduced to the reader is white. White is a symbol of purity, innocence, and happiness, but can also be a symbol of how cold death is. The ideas of white that Zusak has presented are primarily shown through the language feature of symbolism. “First up is something white. Of the blinding kind.” The blinding of the colour white represents the coldness of Werner’s passing and how overwhelmed Liesel and Death are from it.    
“Yes, it was white.
It felt as though the whole globe was dressed in snow. Like it has pulled it on,     the way you pull on a sweater. Next, to the train line, footprints were sunken to their shins. Trees wore blankets of ice.” This quote contains a hyperbole as Zusak has exaggerated what Liesel is seeing, the snow is so white that to her 10-year-old mind it feels like the whole world must be covered in this, white is also a symbol of the blanket of oppression that has been placed over Germany by the Nazi Party; like the blanket of white snow, this blanket of oppression is  immovable and covers the country with a heavy force. After reading the Book Thief, I came away feeling like the use of white was emphatic and had meaning and clarity when it was used. The colour white was a perfect contrast to the colour black as they represented very different things but also seemed to cross over with each other. Liesel as a person was the living embodiment of white in the book as she symbolised what white is; purity, innocence, and happiness. This meant that wherever she went in the book, the colour white followed; this created a vivid setting even if it wasn’t mentioned directly. This was possible through the language feature of symbolism.

Red in the Book Thief is the most powerful colour by far. Zusak has portrayed this colour so well that when the reader thinks of the setting or an important moment in the book they see red; that is how powerful the colour is. The language feature of symbolism has been used throughout the book referencing colour, and the repeated use of this specific language feature allows the reader to associate certain images when they read a passage which contains “red”. This association between red and certain images creates a vivid setting for the reader which makes the point that Zusak is trying to get across much more effective; for me, I found that red symbolised violence, danger, the erasing of Jewish history, and the blood spilled by the German people during the 12 year Nazi rule of there country. The violence that red represents is exhibited in the bombings of Himmel street, the red sky that morning was a warning of what was to come when Death uses a simile to describe the sky, it adds to the image that is starting to form in the readers head  “the sky was like soup, boiling and stirring.” This forms the image of a red sky changing colours and reddish clouds bouncing around, although this may be aesthetically pleasing, people who know the old mariners saying of “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning” will know that danger is imminent. This simile adds to the setting as it enriches the image in the readers head, while also having a deeper meaning which allows the reader to think about what the future in the book may look like. Further on in the same chapter, red is again used to create a vivid setting. This time Zusak has used personification when Death is describing the state of Himmel Street and Molching after the bombings, “The streets were ruptured veins”. This gives the image of dark red blood trickling down the street around the corners. Here red symbolises the blood spilled by the German People, this creates an extremely moving image which once again contributes to the setting that is being created for the reader. The most influential use of the colour red is represented through the flames on the night of the burning of the books. The orangey-red flames ripped through hundreds of years of Jewish literature effortlessly leaving a pile of ash behind, while the people of Molching stood there applauding, “To their left, flames and burning books were cheered like heroes.” This book burning represents something much bigger happening in Germany though, the red flames symbolize the Nazis while the books symbolize German Jews. Like the books, the Jews were getting ravaged by the red flame known as the Nazis, while people stood there and did nothing to intervene. Zusak has used the colour red as a symbol of everything wrong with Nazi Germany, the use of symbolism and other language features have made the colour red very meaningful which has added to the overall setting of the book. I believe that red in the Book Thief was purposely used in this way as it is such a bold and strong colour; Zusak has used this to capture the reader’s mind and transport them back in time to Nazi Germany, all through the use of language features relating to red which sets a rich and vivid setting.

“Next is a signature black to show the poles of my versatility if you like.” Black in the book has been used as a symbol of darkness and unhappiness. Zusak has used this colour with the language feature of symbolism to represent the dark history that Hitler put Germany through. If Death has poles of versatility with his colours, then black in the text must directly contrast the colour of white; white stands for purity, innocence, and happiness, whereas black stands for impurity, death, and sadness. The signature black is referring to the Nazi’s swastika on their flag, but the colour black symbolises much more in Nazi Germany, during this period when people heard or saw the colour black fear would strike them down, black was the colour of the uniform of the Schutzstaffel (SS), they were Hitler’s paramilitary organisation who would deal with anyone that was opposed to Hitler or the Party. Zusak has captured this fear of black but has applied it in a different area; death. In the story of Max Vandenburg, Max and the darkness of death and go hand in hand; again Zusak has used symbolism to show this through the colour of black. “A small, black room. In it sits a Jew. He is scum. He is starving. He is afraid. Please – try not to look away.” In one of the books most disheartening scenes, Death describes Max Vandenburg’s current situation. From what Death describes the reader can picture a scared, sad, and vulnerable Jew hiding in the darkness of a room. Zusak has included the colour black in Death’s passage as it starts to get the reader associating the colour black with different images of sadness and despair; therefore Zusak is using symbolism again to convey a more vivid setting. Although Zusak has portrayed black as primarily a symbol of darkness and unhappiness, he  “He (Rudy) smeared the charcoal on, nice and thick, till he was covered in black. Even his hair received a once-over.” Here Rudy smearing black all over himself gives him happiness, but on the flip side causes many people to feel sadness and anger towards Rudy, purely based on the colour he smeared on himself. The reader now starts to come to the realisation that the colour black in the book will have a negative outcome. My opinion is that black is the enforcer out of the three main colours, it strikes fear into the characters, but also has a similar effect on the reader as when they reach a passage that contains black they know that it is a symbol for something much more horrific.

In conclusion, language features in the Book Thief used in conjunction with colours created a vivid setting which as a reader added to the experience of the book. With symbolism being used the most in reference to the three main colours of black, white, and red; this provided an interesting insight as the rich colours put multiple and very different images in my head, but somehow gelled together which created a very vivid setting.

Maturation of Liesel Meminger

1) Initially, what would you imagine a person who steals books to be like?
Untrustworthy? Mysterious? Evil? How does Liesel differ from your initial notions of who a “book thief would be”?

If a stranger asked me to describe what a “Book Thief” would look like, I would be stunned for words. Stealing books is an unusual thing for a thief to steal, compared to other things its monetary value is very low. This is why it is hard to imagine a “Book Thief”, I can imagine an old librarian sneaking a book out of the library that they work at, but I can also picture a young child feeling quite cheeky by slipping a book underneath there coat.
Liesel is a quiet young girl who I wouldn’t expect to become a thief, but she has a mischievous side to her that when given opportunity would come out and compel her to do things that she wouldn’t usually even think of. When this mischievous is paired with something that she loves like books, she will break the law to get what she wants.


2) Explain how these early experiences in Liesel’s life would have affected her as a child? What do these early references about Liesel indicate how she is going to interact with others? What will be her goals/ objectives in life? What
conflicts/difficulties may she have as she matures?

Liesel’s early childhood experiences did affect her greatly. At an early age, Liesel and her brother were taken away from there mother and were going to be given to a foster family. On the train, to there new home her brother dies

3) Why are books and words so important to Liesel? How does she learn that
words, can be used for good and for evil?

4) Why does Liesel vow that she will never kiss Rudy?

5) How does Max’s experience in Nazi Germany alter how Liesel views her own

6) Liesel continues to steal books throughout the novel. Why is this act important to her? What purpose does it serve?


Characterisation of Death – “The Book Thief”

“Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born. I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks. I listened to their last, gasping cries. Their vanishing words. I watched their love visions and freed them from their fear.”

In the Book Thief, Markus Zusak has portrayed death with human qualities and emotions, which is interesting as death in literature is usually displayed as a non-human like character; usually as a grim reaper type creature with a scythe at his side. Although in the Book Thief, death wasn’t written like this which made it easier for the reader to understand his motives and actions as he was a more relatable character. The following quote is from Death after his first day at Auschwitz, “Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born. I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks. I listened to their last, gasping cries. Their vanishing words. I watched their love visions and freed them from their fear.” This shows that death is actually a kind and caring person and not a monster that everyone perceives him to be.

The Representation of Death: Sam, Logan, and Blake

The representation of Death – ‘The Book Thief’

What do we learn about “Death” in this text?
How is “Death” presented?

Try’s to understand people, is fascinated by them
Similar to a human
Different methods to distract him from his work
Liesel isn’t the only human he has cared about
“Haunted by humans”
Looks for hope in humans
Didn’t like mystery
Humans can’t avoid him
Doesn’t remember every person’s death
Memory isn’t the best

Exposure shared task: Sam, Madi, and Jacob

Personification: “merciless iced east winds that knife us”- The wind is so brutal it is as though it is another opposing soldier stabbing them with a bayonet. The harsh weather environments are another evil enemy to them. The cold could potentially be the real killer as the men wait the call from their leaders.

Listing: “war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy”- Listing can often draw a mood out of the text. It could be an uncomfortable feeling or in this case a slow sad mood. The listing here represents dullness, sadness and pain. The men will all feel so alone out in the exposed open, looking into the storm the war seems to be forever ongoing and the harsh bomb struck environment is never ending.   


  • “Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles”
  • “Like a dull rumour of some other war”

“Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles” – The anguish of the men is shown in the wind. The imagery that Owen creates is that of soldiers struggling in the bramble. The tough, prickly, and annoying plant, is trying to drain the men of their energy. This shows the reader the conditions of war; and like Brambles if they try escape they will got more tangled and intertwined with it to the point where it seems impossible to escape.   

Rhetorical question:
“What are we doing here?” The soldiers are wondering what they are still doing in this place. They don’t feel connected to the war they don’t feel like they are apart of it. “Is it that we are dying?” It could mean that they are losing hope and they feel like they are slowly dying.

Exposure Wilfred Owen

How is the idea of “exposure” – exposed to extreme weather conditions, is a recurring theme in the poem.

List all of the references to “exposure” that are included in the poem.

Explain what these references specifically tell you about the environment and conditions the men experience. How is the weather presented as an enemy?


References to the weather:

The title – “exposure”

“In the merciless iced east winds that knive us”

“Mad gusts tugging on the wire”

“We only know was lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy”

“Less deathly than the air that shudders black with snow”

“Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces”

Exposure – Wilfred Owen

Identify 5/6 examples of language techniques used in this poem. Explain why you think these examples (and techniques) were used.

What ideas, experiences, events and atmosphere do they convey?

  1.  Simile – “Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire, Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.

  2. Repetition – “But nothing happens”

  3. Personification – “In the merciless iced east winds that knive us”

  4. Metaphor – “All their eyes are ice”

  5. Metaphor – “Crusted dark-red jewels”


Anthem for Doomed Youth

What has been included: What can you determine/understand about the writer of this text? What are his experiences beliefs and values? What does he want the reader to experience or understand?

What we can understand about the author is that he was a soldier, as the detail that has been included, but we can also assume that he is a poet as he has the literacy skills to put his experience into a poem. They’re many religious references in the poem, which leads us as the reader to think that he is religious.

What has been included: Consider the selection of words/vocabulary in this poem. Why have specific words been chosen? What do the words convey? How do the words affect our understanding of what is taking place?

In the poem Anthem for Doomed Youth, Wilfred Owen has included a wide range of Vocabulary and Words to emphasise certain parts of the poem. In the first line of the poem “What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?” I can feel Owens anger. The amount of soldiers who are dying in the war is being reiterated by the bells being tolled constantly. Owen feels like this is similar to cattle being sent to the slaughter house. This puts a vivid picture in the readers head of the comparisant between the two, but also the mourning families of the soldiers. This. creates a feeling of sadness and anger.

Many of the words that Owen has used in the text represent death and sadness. Passing bells, Drawing down of blinds, pall, pallor, candles, and bugles are examples of the vocabulary that Owen uses to set the scene in the poem.

What has been included: Consider the selection of language techniques in this poem. Why have specific language techniques been chosen? What do the techniques convey? How do the techniques affect our understanding of what is taking place?

Wilfred Owen has used countless language techniques throughout the poem for example: simile, personification, alliteration, repetition and many more. One that stood out to me was the use of personification in the line, “monstrous anger of the guns” Personification is when a human characteristic is given to a non human object. In this case, Owen has given the gun the feeling of anger; this may make the reader more able to understand what the is trying to convey. Others may interpret this line as meaning that the soldiers have the anger and it has been transferred  to the gun, but I believe in this case it is the other way. In a situiation where there is a major war, many lives would have been taken; and  in World War One gunfire was one of the main causes. So for many soldiers there friends lives would have been caught short because of guns, so when they pick up there gun anger might posses them because they know what the weapon will do. Almost like there holding a monster.

What has been included: Consider the contrasting vocabulary and images within the poem. How have positive and negative images been represented throughout the poem the language choice and images?

In the poem many of the words have religious backgrounds, as the reader we imagine peace and calmness. However, Owen contrasts this by using words that causes the readers images to swap from a biblical and religious place, to the middle of a war zone with guns firing everywhere. An example of this is in the first stanza where in one line Owen says “Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle” then in the next he says “Can patter out their hasty orisons.”

Although there are many religious words and features which should create a positive image, there are none, The only image which sticks with the reader is is that of negative things. This is very ironic as war in England and Europe was glorified as an experience of a life time and something that you should be wanting to go to. Wilfred Owens own experiences must have been anything but enjoyable.

What is included: Dulce et Decorum Est


What Images are presented in the text?
In the poem Dulce et Decorum Est written by Wilfred Owen the images presented are powerful, but most importantly substantial and strong. The poem was written to show how the war was not glorious and noble, as many people thought it was. He wanted show how horrible war is, and its affects on people.

The line “bent double” immediately puts an image in my head that is not very pleasant. The image that is presented to me is of a soldier who has been plagued with sickness, but continues to battle; though during the fight it becomes overwhelming. He is forced into the position of “bent double”, and cannot continue.

In the second stanza of the poem, Owen has written the line “Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time”. The image that he his trying to establish is that of soldiers rushing through the trenches almost missing there helmets; but like in slow motion they reach back just in time to grab there valued protective gear before they leave the whole in the ground. As they reach the top of the trench they are still fitting there helmets, but with the rush of adrenaline they are finding it difficult.

“Behind the wagon that we flung him in”, is such a powerful line. I believe that Owen is trying to convey the image of an injured man in horrific mental and physical state who can’t continue. The state that he is in, is so bad that he can’t even walk and needs his comrades to lift him into a medical wagon. The image created by Owen is grim, but easily communicates his message that going to war is not nice.

The line in the poem that generates the most vivid image is, “white eyes writhing in his face”. The image that Owen has created is of a soldier in unimaginable pain; the pain is so bad that the colour has left eyes, and all that is left is the white squirming and twisting around. This line really hits Owens goal of trying to show that war is not glamorous and something to be proud of it. It is actually horrific and causes pain to many.

What specific vocabulary has been chosen to add the meaning of the text?

The use of Latin sets the time period, as Latin would’ve been taught widely throughout the schools

Language Techniques:
Oxymoron – “An ecstasy of fumbling”
The word ecstasy
Symbolism – “Smothering dreams”
Personification – “Haunting flares”


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.