Life Lessons For an MU Student from The Book Thief

It’s safe to assume that many of us have read a book and taken away some valuable life lessons. No different than the rest of the books we read, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a book that produces some of these lessons. This is a poignant and staggering story about Liesel Meminger, a young girl living in Nazi Germany.

Life isn’t easy for her, nor is it easy for anyone during this time period, but Liesel and her foster family are put in danger when they begin to hide a Jewish man in their basement. This experience will expose Liesel to lessons she never knew before. These life lessons are applicable to MU students:

Accept Others’ Differences

When Liesel’s foster family take in Max, a Jewish man, they slowly get to know him. During this time Jews were demonized, but as Max opened up about his past Liesel learns that his differences didn’t make him a monster. Liesel learned to accept Max’s differences.

This is something every MU student knows because our campus is so diverse. No two people are the same and that shouldn’t be a problem; it makes life more interesting. Thanks to organizations, like the Gender Studies Club for example, at MU, which help promote these ideas and instill them into students, we have a rather accepting campus.

Stand Up for the Oppressed

In Nazi Germany, those who sympathized or helped the Jews could’ve been punished or killed. Liesel’s foster family takes in Max and risk their lives to help save his own. The Meminger’s stood up for what’s right just like those here at MU. Those who cannot or will not be heard in society need the help of those who can be heard.

Human rights should never be violated or compromised. This is something MU upholds. On International Women’s Day, Mar. 8, MU students, faculty, and community members marched on campus for women and attempted to give a voice to those who are oppressed. There are plenty of opportunities like this on campus for students to give a voice to marginalized groups.

Words Have Power

After stealing her first book from a graveyard, Liesel soon began to steal books from Nazi burnings and the mayor’s wife’s library. Liesel began to learn how to read and created stories with Max on the pages of Mein Kampf. She learned to love words and the power that they have on us.

Like Liesel, most everyone at MU understand that words have power. They can empower, enlighten or impact us. It’s why we have literary students and programs here at MU.

We All Make Mistakes

Liesel and her friend Rudy make several mistakes throughout The Book Thief. They get involved with the wrong people and steal food from farmers, but they recognize their mistakes and reconcile them. No one is perfect. We are all human and humans make mistakes- something students know well.

As students we are going to make many mistakes throughout our lives, and there’s nothing we can do to avoid it. That’s why as MU students we roll with the punches and lean from our mistakes.

Keep Moving Forward

There are many hardships Liesel and her family and friends face throughout the novel, and Liesel withstands the worst of all- losing all of her loved ones. No matter what difficulties she faced she kept moving forward, just like MU students.

Whether it’s a low grade on a midterm or a relationship that’s ended, don’t stop and agonize over it. Focusing on the negatives in life will never help you; it’s important to look at the positives in life when the world is cruel.

These life lessons are not only applicable to a young girl in Germany during World War II, but to MU students here in the 21st century. It’s through the stories and journeys of others, fictional or non-fictional, that we learn what it means to be human and how we can help better ourselves and, eventually, the world.