22nd June 2018

The Book Theif-Colours

The way death uses the colours he sees that colour as an emotion or thing and turns that into a greater meaning than just a colour black you would think is depression and death red maybe anger or love blue maybe sadness or cold orange could be fire or warmth yellow could be sunlight and happiness white to me does not really have a colour meaning but it makes me think of sickness or ghostlyness.

White:“blinding” (page 7) refers to something shocking, making it difficult to see clearly. This indicates Liesel, and Death is overwhelmed by the scene of Werner Meminger’s death and the reality of the grief that comes with it.
Death says “ some of you are most likely thinking that white is not really a colour…..well I’m here to tell you that it is.” (page 7) This is interesting because these lines show us that Death understands colours in a different way than humans do. The colours are more important to him because they represent human feelings and experiences rather than a sight. E.g. Death says, “It felt as though the whole globe was dressed in snow” – this hyperbole indicates how Liesel (and Death) feel about the passing of Werner Meminger: totally overwhelmed. Similarly, Liesel is wearing her grief like a “jumper” – it surrounds her.


Pathetic Fallacy is also used where the weather and environment, reflect the mood of the funeral scene: “whole globe was dressed in snow”, “trees wore blankets of ice”, “blinding white-snow sky”, “the world was sagging now under the weight of all that snow”, “As you might expect, someone had died.” “tears were frozen to the book thief’s face.”
Other ideas traditionally associated with “white”:
Innocence – Liesel is young, travelling to a strange place for an unknown reason. Her brother has died, which she could not control and she does not have enough experience of the world to make entire sense of his death and her circumstances; she is just broken.
Youth – The story will centre around Liesel’s maturation; Death and the reader will follow this journey of Liesel’s experiences.
Cold – In the literal sense, as it is winter in Germany which represent hard times: limited food resources, lack of warmth, lack of work, dampness but also in the metaphorical sense: sadness, depression, anxiety about being a communist in Nazi Germany/being in danger, having to give up your children, losing one.
Purity – The untainted mind and life of Liesel in contrast to the horror of Werner’s death and looming vent of war.
Blank slate – Liesel’s story will begin from here (without Werner and without Mrs Meminger). Liesel will choose how she moves on (and embraces new people, new experiences)
Good – Liesel shows the strength of the human spirit; that she will live on despite how she feels. Liesel will also bring a lot of joy to other characters in the text.
Death/afterlife – Death’s presence observing Liesel and those around her; the narrator which strangely connects with the reader; the inevitability of Death for all; Werner’s recent passing.
Sterile/Clean – Snow covers the earth almost giving it a facade of being “clean”. For a time, this is a new beginning for Liesel. However, the reality is that corruption will surface again because all human beings are flawed.
Lonely – Reflective of Liesel’s feelings after losing her brother and the strange connection that something unpleasant is coming next (why are they travelling to Molching?) The loneliness of Death who can only carry the burden of his role (never to be shared with someone else; apart from us, the reader).

Black: pages 10-12
“Next a signature black” Hitler created a revolutionary symbol that left a mark on the world. Black is the right colour for this brought darkness, a depressing hole to our history.

“Next is a signature black, to show the poles of my versatility if you like.” This quote pretty much tells us that the opposite of what the colour white means is what the colour black stands for. Basically, if white stands for purity, innocence, and goodness; then black would stand for dirtiness, impurity, and evilness. And this is said directly after saying “Signature black”, which stands for the Nazi party’s main symbol of their group. Death is saying that everything the Nazi party stands for is evil, impure, and just bad in general. Just from this, people would think that Death dislikes the Nazies, however there is a problem there. He is linking this to himself, saying it is one of the sides of himself, which would mean Death hates himself, which is a little bit too far fetched, right? In any case, he doesn’t think anything good of the nazi party, and a scribbled colour of black.Pages 10-11 talk about the color black, Most significantly, smoke black. It is used in the text as something to be left behind, after death. We see this in parts, “… the smoke exhausted itself. There was nothing left to give.” and, “I walked in, loosened his soul and carried it gently out. All that was left was the body, the dwindling smell of smoke, and the smiling teddy bear.”

Black the colour I believe represents darkness and death. In this part of the text black is representing the darkness and horror of death when it arrives too early. I understand this to mean that sometimes people die at a very young age before they should, due to sad circumstances. In this story this happens to Liesel’s brother as he dies very young. ” It was the darkest moment before dawn” This is one quote from the text which represents the colour black as the day is at its darkest. When all is gloomy and depressing which can be compared to the colour black. In this part of the text the atmosphere that is created is sadness and horror as death kills Liesel’s brother and some heroic people who died before their time. The events that occur in these two pages are sad and heartbreaking which is a good representation of what the colour black can be referred to. When everything is dark most things feel scarier which helps me to understand that black is almost an evil creepy colour. The colour black makes me think of really dark nights when you are scared and alone. It makes me think of all the creepy and nasty things that could be out there. It also makes me think of depression when people feel consumed by darkness with no way out. The depression can be caused by sadness. This means that sadness can also be represented by the colour of black.

Represents the colour of the sky during a night bombing raid on himmel street, when death came slightly early to take a mans soul. This is direct contrast to the white environment but nothing has changed there is still someone dying, except that the person dying doesn’t relate to Liesel. “Next is signature black, to show the poles of my versatility, if you like. It was the darkest moment before dawn.” This shows that death can come at any time any place, when its your time you can’t escape it. It’s interesting how he says it’s his ‘signature black,’ to say how most people relate him to dark and night. The picture of the grim reaper in a black robe and stuff.


Red: pages 13-15
Red in the pages 13-15 represent the bombings happening and the catastrophic events taking place like the planes fighting and the continuous fires from bombings on houses. This colour gives a feeling of anger between some and the feeling that there is an emergency. When I personally think of this colour I think of furiousness or anger, or even sometimes racing for example in this case racing to the underground basements do give these innocent families a slight chance of surviving as this is exactly what the scene is setting. “the sky was like soup, boiling and stirring.” I believe this references to Liesel’s emotions as she has just experienced something catastrophic, which is pathetic fallacy. Rage is going to impact Liesel throughout the text and it shows that she might experience a lot of this redness of rage around her throughout the book.

“The last time I saw her was red. The sky was like soup, boiling and stirring. In some places it was burned. There were black crumbs, and pepper, streaked amongst the redness.” The colour red represents the destruction of everything. This quote, for example, is at the time when Himmel street was bombed. And there are other examples, like the book burning. “To their left, flames and burning books were cheered like heroes.” Whenever the colour red comes up, so does destruction. The destruction of many lives through the bombing of Himmel Street, and the destruction of the past of Germany through the book burning.
This destruction never stops, and neither does the colour red. “The blood enlarged on Ludwig Schmeikl’s ankle.” Every now and then, like with the last quote about bleeding, there was danger, and the colour of red. To finish this off, and as you can surely tell by now, the colour red in “The Book Thief” stands for destruction, through burning, through bombing, and even through bleeding.

Red represents violence, blood, and danger
Red is part of the nazi flag; this means that it hangs like a moving cloud of death over the war
Blood red sky makes the danger of the bombing more intimidating
Red also represents the rage of different characters throughout the book
The blood spilled from all the bombs on Himmel Street, can also be represented by the colour red
The burning of the books
Liesel’s brothers heart was described as slippery and hot which gives the image of a red pumping heart

The red represents the blood spilled by the bombs dropped on Himmel Street. Not necessarily the literal blood spilled, but the deaths spilled all down the street. Everyone but Liesel. “The streets were ruptured veins,” Death describes the street as a vein itself burst and destroyed by the bombs, bleeding rubble. Red is also ‘hanging’ over the whole war as the Nazi flag putting its banner over all the death involved.

White: description of the Mayor’s wife, Frau Hermann
“Chalky hand and wrist…she reached out, cold-fingered….long, light eyelashes.” p.144
“The words distributed into a room that was full of cold air and books.” p.144
“Liesel stood in the cool surrounds of the room, her stomach growled, but no reaction was forthcoming from the damaged woman. She was in her bathrobe again…The window was open wide, a square cool mouth, with occasional gusty surges.” p.157
“Johann Hermann,’ she said. Who is that?” The woman’s face did not alter…”He is nothing now in this world,” she explained. “He was my…” “Apart from anything else,” she said, “he froze to death….He froze to death, I’m sure of it.” p.158

Black: Rudy painting his face black like Jesse Owens
Death explains what happened the day Rudy painted himself with charcoal and pretended to run like Jesse Owens through Liesel’s imagination (again indicating that Death is an omniscient narrator – all seeing; all-knowing): “In Liesel’s memory it was like she’d actually been there for Rudy’s act of infamy (p.58)….In Liesel’s mind.(p.59)”
References to “black” in this section:
“He (Rudy) smeared the charcoal on, nice and thick, till he was covered in black. Even his hair received a once over.” p.58
“He’d hidden a few pieces of extra charcoal, in case some of it wore off later.”
“The moon was sewn into the sky that night. Clouds were stitched over it. (darkness covers light)” “darkness sky with the moon and the clouds watching tightly.”
(Mr Steiner) Discovering one of his children smeared charcoal black on a summer evening was not what he considered normal circumstances.”
“You know, papa, the black magic one”

Max hidden in the darkness until it is safe for him to move to Molching.
“A small, black room. In it sits a Jew. He is scum. He is starving. He is afraid. Please – try not to look away.” p.150
“A few hundred miles north-west in Stuttgart, far from book thieves, mayor’s wives and Himmel Street, a man was sitting in the dark…It’s harder to find a Jew in the dark.” p. 151
“He longed for them to knuckle the door, to open it, to drag him out, into the unbearable light…Light like a gun. Explosive to the eyes. It might be time to go. It might be time, so wake up.” p.151
“Everything was so desperately noisy in the dark when he was alone. Each time he moved, there was the sound of a crease. He felt like a man in a paper suit.” p.152
“He opened the suitcase and picked up the book. He could not read the title in the dark, and the gamble of striking a match seemed too great right now.” p.153

Red: The description of the fire at the town centre with the burning of old German books and any Jewish literature.
“You see, people may tell you that Nazi Germany was built on anti-Semitism, a somewhat over-zealous leader and a nation of hate-fed bigots, but it would all have come to nothing had the Germans not loved one particular activity – to burn. The Germans loved to burn things. Shops, synagogues, Reichstags, houses, personal items, slain people and, of course books.” p. 90

“And now, we say goodbye, to this rubbish, this poison….The orange flames waved at the crowd as paper and print dissolved inside them. Burning words were torn from their sentences. On the other side, beyond the blurry heat….you didn’t see people. Only uniforms and signs.” p.120-121

“To their left, flames and burning books were cheered like heroes.” p.122

“The Shoulder shrug…was a blue book with red writing engraved on the cover, and there was a small picture of a cuckoo bird under the title also red.” p. 90

-White is a pale color that has a sense of emptiness. White is a colour full of potential waiting to be released. Throughout The book thief Germany is described as a white/grey place during this time period to help show the mentality of the country. During WW2 the German people were under the control of fear, many were derived of their freedom and thoughts. They were manipulated by Hitler into a false mindset that shared opinions with his own. However much like the colour white that is filled with so much potential the Germans did not rise among the Nazis movement to gain the freedom many would of desired. The German people were capable to do so if united under the same motive however fear controlled the masses. White, a colour that is known to be used for blank canvases in paintings, waiting for the artist to fulfill its purpose much like the German people whom were waiting for a moment to seize.
“I studied the blinding, white-snow sky who stood at the window of the moving train. I practically inhaled it, but , I wavered. I buckled-I became interested.”

White represents the purity and innocence of her of her brother
White is part of the nazi flag

Throughout the text red is a colour related to the rise of naziisem in Germany and is often seen in scenes of immense grief and anger. When Liesel’s brother dies he heart was “slippery and hot” and gives the reader of a bright red heart beating faster and faster. Red could describe liesel’s burning anger towards Hitler, when Hans tells her that he could take them away and her. Red is also used by death to describe the day when liesel’s home and loved ones were torn from her, as the streets were like ruptured veins which would leak dark red blood across the road. It shows how devastated and destroyed Liesel’s life is as the bright hopeful fire in her heart has burnt out and the red is now spilt all around her, in the sky and in the ground beneath her feet. This could also reflect the blood of Germany that day as they know they have lost to the bombs of the allies.

The colour red also quite obviously appears when blood is shed, at the end of the book after liesel’s town was bombed, blood of her loved ones flooded the street, evidently death saw boiling thick red skies everywhere

“He smeared the charcoal on, nice and thick, till he was covered in black.”
“Waiting for his moment, he paced around, gathering concentration under the darkness sky, with the moon and the clouds watching, tightly.”
“Discovering one of his children smeared charcoal black on a summer evening was not what he considered normal circumstances. “The boy is crazy,” he muttered”
“I was being Jesse Owens”, He answered as though it was the most natural thing on earth to be doing. There was even something implicit in his tone that suggested something along the lines of, “What the hell does it look like?”
“Jesse Owens?” Mr. Steiner was the type of man who was very wooden. His voice was angular and true. His body was tall and heavy, like oak. His hair was like splinters. “What about him?”
“You know, Papa, the Black Magic one.”
“Son, you can’t go around painting yourself black, you hear?
Rudy was interested, and confused. The moon was undone now, free to move and rise and fall and drip on the boy’s face, making him nice and murky, like his thoughts. “Why not, Papa?”
“Because they’ll take you away.”
“Because you shouldn’t want to be like black people or Jewish people or anyone who is . . . not us.” “Who are Jewish people?”
“You know my oldest customer, Mr. Kaufmann? Where we bought your shoes?”
“Well, he’s Jewish.”
“I didn’t know that. Do you have to pay to be Jewish? Do you need a license?”
“No, Rudy.” Mr. Steiner was steering the bike with one hand and Rudy with the other. He was having trouble steering the conversation. He still hadn’t relinquished the hold on his son’s earlobe. He’d forgotten about it. “It’s like you’re German or Catholic.”
“Oh. Is Jesse Owens Catholic?”
“I don’t know!”
They walked on in silence for a while, until Rudy said, “I just wish I was like Jesse Owens, Papa.”
This time, Mr. Steiner placed his hand on Rudy’s head and explained, “I know, son—but you’ve got beautiful blond hair and big, safe blue eyes. You should be happy with that; is that clear?”

United forever in friendship and labour,
Our mighty republics will ever endure.
The Great Soviet Union will live through the ages.
The dream of a people their fortress secure.

Long live our Soviet motherland,
Built by the people’s mighty hand.
Long live our people, united and free.
Strong in our friendship tried by fire.
Long may our crimson flag inspire,
Shining in glory for all men to see.
Through days dark and stormy where Great Lenin lead us
Our eyes saw the bright sun of freedom above
And Stalin our leader with faith in the people,
Inspired us to build up the land that we love.

Long live our Soviet motherland,
Built by the people’s mighty hand.
Long live our people, united and free.
Strong in our friendship tried by fire.
Long may our crimson flag inspire,
Shining in glory for all men to see.
We fought for the future, destroyed the invaders,
And brought to our homeland the laurels of fame.
Our glory will live in the memory of nations
And all generations will honour her name.

Long live our Soviet motherland,
Built by the people’s mighty hand.
Long live our people, united and free.
Strong in our friendship tried by fire.
Long may our crimson flag inspire,
Shining in glory for all men to see.


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