Elements of a Narrative - The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Elements of Literature
The Journey is the oldest, truest, most inescapable
shape for a story. From nursery story to biblical
narrative to contemporary novel, someone is always
setting out from home.
The Journey doesn’t need to be a literal voyage ... It
can be physical or mental, deliberate or accidental,
voluntary or forced, a quest or a flight.
The journey as narrative structure
is the process by which the writer reveals the
personality of a character…
Where the author creates a character on a page
and make readers feel as if they have met a real
creating characters boils down to, ultimately:
making the audience care...
• What does the character look like?
• How do the character’s physical
attributes play a role in the story?
• How does the character feel about his
or her physical attributes?
• How does the character change
physically during the story?
• How do these changes affect the
• How would you describe this
• What does this character know? How
does this character’s intellect compare
to others in the story?
• Is this character smart enough to thrive
in the world in which he or she lives?
• What does this character learn as the
• How does this character feel most of
• How do his or her feelings change
throughout the story?
• How does this character feel about
himself or herself?
• When faced with challenges in the
story, what emotions come up for
• How does this character get along with
other characters in the story?
• Who does this character choose for
friends and why does this character
• Where does this character stand in the
• How does this character’s social
standing affect events in the story?
• What does this character believe
about the way life is?
• What are these beliefs based on? How
do these beliefs affect the choices
this character makes?
• How do those beliefs change
throughout the story?
• Do others in the story share these
He was eight months older than Liesel and had bony
legs, sharp teeth, gangly blue eyes and hair the colour
of lemon. (p.49)
Description of Rudy Steiner
Help us understand why characters speak and act the
way they do.
Help us understand what the characters think or why
they have certain beliefs.
Help us understand a character’s relationships with
Help us predict what characters might do next.
Help us make inferences and to draw conclusions
about events in the story.
Frau Diller was a sharp-edged woman with fat glasses
and a nefarious glare. She developed this evil look to
discourage the very idea of stealing from her shop,
which she occupied with soldier-like posture, a
refrigerated voice and even breath that smelt like Heil
Description of Frau Diller
The two types of characterization are direct
characterisation and indirect characterisation.
If a writer tells you what a character is like, the method
is called direct characterisation.
If a writer prefers to show characters in action, the
method is called indirect characterisation.
Characterisation: Creating Characters
Direct presentation Indirect presentation
The author or narrator makes direct
statements about a character's
personality and tells what the character is
How does the character STEAL your
• A character’s Speech (What does the character say? How does
the character speak?)
• A character’s Thoughts (What is revealed through the character’s
private thoughts and feelings?)
• A character’s interactions [Effect on others] (What is revealed
through the character’s effect on other people? How do other
characters feel or behave in reaction to the character?)
• A character’s Actions (What does the character do? How does the
• A character’s Looks (What does the character look like? How
does the character dress?)
To identify character traits, think of
Lewis always took ages to get ready. He
really did. He always forgot something.
He had to make sure that his outfit was
just right - that was his problem.
Eventually he would appear, say sorry,
and you’d explain to him that he had
taken ages – again.
Lewis looked at himself in the mirror, adjusting his
shirt. He put on his new watch and looked at the
time. Getting on, he thought. His wallet was
somewhere, as were his keys, but he wasn’t ready to
look yet. He looked at the shirts on his bed, thinking
what to wear. After a while, he took off the one he
was already wearing, picked up the yellow one
instead and put it on. He looked into the mirror
again, checking his beard and spraying some cologne
on his neck. He found his keys on the side, and
eventually his wallet appeared in a coat he had worn
the night before. He put on his shoes and had one
last look in the mirror by the door. His friends were
waiting outside, grumpy and muttering because of
the time he had taken. “Sorry.” He said.
Writers also give readers a view of their characters
from another angle: through characters’ relationships
with each other.
Character reactions reveal qualities of both characters
and their relationship…through:
what characters say to each other and
how characters act toward each other
Relationships - Indirect
One evening Hans, Max and Liesel were sitting in front of the fire.
Mama was in the kitchen. Max was reading Mein Kampf again.
“You know something?” Hans said. He leaned towards the fire.
“Liesel’s actually a good little reader herself.” Max lowered the
book. “And she has more in common with you that you might
think.” Papa checked that Rosa wasn’t coming. “She likes a good
Liesel, at the high end of eleven and still rake-skinny as she sat
against the wall, was devastated. “I’ve never been in a fight!”
“Shhh,” Papa laughed. He waved at her to keep her voice down,
and titled again, this time to the girl. “Well, what about the hiding
you gave Ludwig Schmeikl, huh?” (p.238)
What relationship exists between Papa and Liesel,
Papa and Rosa?
How is this revealed in the passage by:
what the characters say to each other?
how the characters act toward each other?
Papa and Liesel
Motivation is the reason why people do the things
Uncover a character’s motivations by paying
Then, think about the outcome of the character’s
The protagonist is the main character.
The antagonist is the character or force opposing the main
Flat: characterized by one or two traits, summed up in a
Round: complex and many-sided.
Stock: a type of flat, stereotypical figure who has occurred
so often in fiction that his/her nature is immediately known
(i.e. sinister villain, good sheriff, mad scientist, etc.)
Static: unchanging character from the beginning to
Developing or Dynamic: undergoes a permanent
change in some aspect of his/her character,
personality, or outlook. Change should be plausible,
meaning that the change is believable, given the
details in the story.
the events that take place in a story. Every story
needs a plot! The plot has different parts:
Suspense- excitement or tension
Flashback- interrupts the normal sequence of events
to tell about something that happened in the past
Surprise Ending- conclusion that reader does not
Ways to develop your plot
When Liesel tried to make her way through, a crackling sound prompted her to
think that the fire had already begun. It hadn’t. The noise was kinetic humans,
flowing, charging up.
They’ve started without me!
Although something inside told her that this was a crime, after all, her three
books were the most precious items that she own – she was compelled to see
the thing lit. She couldn’t help it. I guess humans like to watch a little
destruction. Sandcastles, houses of cards, that’s where they begin. Their great
skills I their capacity to escalate.
The thought of missing it was eased when she found a gap in the bodies and
was able to see the mound of guilt, still intact. It was prodded and splashed,
even spat on. It reminded her of an unpopular child, forlorn and bewildered,
powerless to alter its fate. No-one liked it. Head down. Hands in pockets.
The book burning…
Character vs Character – problem with another
Character vs Nature – problem with a force of nature
Character vs Society - problem with the laws or beliefs
of a group or character vs. community, society or
Character vs Self -problem with deciding what to do
or think; “inner conflict”
Types of Conflict
Character vs Character
Character vs Nature
Character vs Society
Character vs Self
Conflict – The Book Thief
What type(s) of conflict(s) existed in The Book Thief:
Nazi Germany and the Second World War
Dachau Concentration Camp
What central message, concern or purpose was/were
evident in The Book Thief?
Are some themes more evident/important than
The literary device ‘motif’ is any element, subject, idea
or concept that is constantly present through the
entire body of literature. Using a motif refers to the
repetition of a specific theme dominating the literary
Motifs are very noticeable and play a significant role
in defining the nature of the story, the course of
events and the very fabric of the literary piece.
How are these communicated?
Books and writing
Symbolism is the use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them
symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense.
Symbolism can take different forms. Generally, it is an object representing
another to give it an entirely different meaning much deeper and more
significant. Sometimes, however, an action, an event or a word spoken by
someone may have a symbolic value. For instance, “smile” is a symbol of
friendship. Similarly, the action of someone smiling at you may stand as a
symbol of the feel of affection which that this person has for you.
Symbols do shift their meanings depending on the context they are used in.
“A chain”, for example, may stand for “union” as well as “imprisonment”.
Thus, symbolic meanings of an object or an action are understood by when,
where and how they are used. It also depends on who reads them.
The swastika (symbols of fear, irrational prejudice,
Han’s Accordian (symbol of…)
Bread (symbol of…)
Books (symbol of…)