Throughout the text the narrator, Death, talks about the significance of colours. Red, Black, White. Through the use of these colours that Death talks about, Markus Zusak is able to capture the readers imagination and create a more vivid image of the ideas that he is trying to portray. Using Colours to portray ideas creates a more vivid image because colours come with connotations surrounding them that the reader already has. We as the reader already associate different meaning with colours so when used to talk about themes in the text it allows Markus Zusak to create deeper meaning. This also allows everyone who reads the text to take different ideas from the text based on there predisposed ideas of what certain colours represent.
“Next a signature black”. The word “black” is surrounded in negative connotations. Death, darkness, depression, these are powerful images created in people heads. Death talks about the colour black right from the start of the text and how it surrounds everything. Liesel’s brother and mother are both killed in the beginning of the text which links to the idea of death and the colour black. The fact that the colour black is talked about a lot throughout the text indicates that Death hangs over Liesel and other characters in the text. Death is a by-product of war. This means that in WW2 Germany Death is an all too common occurrence. Death can effect different people in different ways. Frau Hermann lost her son due to the war and it effects her deeply. She is quiet, withdrawn and depressed. Liesel lost her mother and brother but chooses not to dwell on it and finds happiness in her life. Death and the colour black hangs over Frau Hermann’s life. “He is nothing now in this world,” she explained. “He was my…” “Apart from anything else”. This pause when Frau Hermann is talking about her son shows that she still mourns for him. Markus Zusak uses the language feature of symbolism to create powerful ideas of Death and the darkness that it brings people. He shows us through the colour black the influence that Death has over our life.
Markus Zusak uses symbolism through the colour Red, to represent the destruction and blood spilled by War and to capture the imagination of the reader. Millions of Jewish people were killed and millions of other were killed fighting to save them. The colour red symbolizes their blood that was unfairly spilled in battles caused by Hitlers extremist views. “To their left, flames and burning books were cheered like heroes.” p.122, “The Germans loved to burn things”, Germany burned everything from books to people during the war. Jewish people were killed and burned and books promoting anything that the Nazi’s opposed were burned also. The colour red in this part of the text represents fire and destruction The colour red would also have been seen in all aspects of Liesel’s life as it is the main colour of the Nazi party flag. The Nazi flag was common place in everyone’s homes and schools as not displaying your allegiance to the Nazi party could result in you and your family being dragged off to concentration camps.
The poem “Exposure” by Wilfred Owen is all about the colour white and the freezing cold and death that it brings. This relates to “The Book thief” because Frau Hermann’s son froze to death in Russia. “he froze to death….He froze to death, I’m sure of it.” It also relates to how Liesel’s brother dies on the train at the beginning of the text. When Liesel’s brother dies, he passes away in his sleep peacefully. The world around him is covered in snow. This is an example of Pathetic Fallacy. Liesel’s brother dies peacefully and the environment around him represents this. Markus Zusak uses pathetic fallacy to capture the readers imagination by making Liesel’s surroundings represent events that are happening in her life.
The colour white in the text could represent how the Nazi’s felt that white skinned people were a superior race. The ideal Aryan has blonde hair, blue eyes, white skin. Anyone else is considered inferior and worthless. The colour white is often associated with the idea of innocence. In the text Rudy is too young to understand the political and racist views of the Nazi party. Rudy’s innocence is shown in his wanting to be like Jesse Owens, the African American runner, without realizing that being black or even wanting to be black is considered sacrilege in Nazi Germany. “Mr Steiner decided to talk politics with the boy … Only in the years ahead would Rudy understand it all.”
All of the colours in one way or another link back to the idea of, and the narrator himself, Death. White is the freezing, cold side of Death. Red is the burning, chaotic Death caused by war. Black represents Death itself and the darkness it brings too people lives. Markus Zusak uses pathetic fallacy and symbolism to represent his ideas. Colour is a huge part of human lives and the way that Markus Zusak uses it capture the readers imagination intensely.