Authors use a variety of literary devices to make a book more interesting and keep the reader in suspense. The author of the The Book Thief, Markus Zusak, is fond of the literary device called foreshadowing. He makes the book suspenseful, revealing how characters die early on and telling the reader the outcome to certain events. The narrator, Death, reveals nearly all of the crucial events of the book in advance, especially during certain events or when characters die under specific circumstances. By revealing how characters die early on and telling the reader the outcome, Zusak makes the novel more suspenseful with his use of vague descriptions of the scenes which he is foreshadowing.
One way Zusak uses Death to heighten the suspense of the novel is by foreshadowing the outcomes to certain events. There are numerous occurrences when the narrator, Death, uses foreshadowing to keep the reader interested in the story and to further on certain thematic ideas in the novel. For example, Death says, “Hans Hubermann was not granted membership in the Nazi Party. Not yet, anyway” (Zusak 183). Here, it is being foreshadowed that Hans Hubermann would later be a part of the Nazi Party at some point of his life. After knowing about his earlier rejections from the Nazi Party, readers believed that Hans would not be drafted at all. This piece of information given by the narrator leaves readers curious and wanting to know more about how Hans will join, which enhances the suspense.
In addition, Death also foreshadows the outcome of the event in which bombs had came into Himmel Street. In this part of the novel, Death illustrates the devastation that comes into Himmel Street and into Liesel’s world. Death says, “Again, I offer you a glimpse of the end. Perhaps its to soften the blow for later, or to later prepare myself for the telling. Either way, I must inform you that it was raining on Himmel Street when the world ended for Liesel Meminger” (Zusak 497). In this case, the ‘rain’ coming into Himmel Street was a bomb. In the parts of the novel where Death foreshadows the outcomes to certain events heightens the suspense as readers start to wonder what the effects of the bombing will be and how they will change the course of the novel.
Furthermore, Zusak’s vague descriptions of the scenes in which he is foreshadowing make the novel more suspenseful. In Death’s foreshadowing of Rudy Steiner’s death, readers are given very little information of how or when this tragedy will occur. Death says, “A small announcement about Rudy Steiner. He didn’t deserve to die the way he did” (Zusak 242). Although Death may know the details of Rudy’s death, the suspense is heightened for the readers that do not. After readers are given this information by the narrator, tension is increased in every scene of the novel regarding Rudy. Later in the novel, Zusak foreshadows another piece of Rudy’s death.
Death narrates, ‘I would, that Rudy died that very same day, or hypothermia. He did not. Recollections like those merely remind me that he was not deserving of the fate that met him a little under two year later” (Zusak 242). Here, it is explained that in two years, Rudy was going to die. Although we have not gotten to Rudy’s death, readers already knew most of the details about his last moments by the information given by the foreshadowed moments. What is left for readers to wonder is how Rudy died, which elevated the suspense for the upcoming events pertaining the rest of the novel.
Finally, the most suspenseful illustration of foreshadowing is found in The Book Thief when Death foreshadows the loss of characters’ lives. Towards the end of the novel, Death narrates saying, “Rudy Steiner slept. Mama and Papa slept. Frau Holtzapfel, Frau Diller. Tommy Muller. All sleeping. All dying. Only one person survived” (Zusak 498). Here, it is being foreshadowed that almost everyone in Liesel’s life will die, and that she will be the only survivor. Suspense and tension are created for the reader at this moment because this foreshadows an extremely important event in the novel that pertains to the main characters. Suspense is built as readers start to wonder the details of this event. They are curious to know what will happen when all of Liesel’s loved ones die, and how she will cope with it. Using foreshadowing to show the passings of characters, Death creates thematic ideas and engages the reader into the story through heightened suspense that is created. When By revealing how characters die early on and telling the reader the outcome, Zusak makes the novel more suspenseful with his use of vague descriptions of the scenes which he is foreshadowing.