Summary and Analysis
Part 4: The Standover Man:
The Swapping of Nightmares
Max moves to the basement and continues to feel guilty for leaving his family and for putting Hans, Rosa, and Liesel in danger. His guilt also comes from wanting to live.
Liesel's outside life progresses as it has been — she walks with Rudy, picks up and delivers the washing, and reads in the mayor's library. Now, she is reading The Whistler.
Rosa and Hans make Liesel deliver food to Max in the basement. She sees that he is reading Mein Kampf, and she wants to ask about it but can't find the words. One night, Hans takes her downstairs so they can resume their reading lessons. He tells her to bring The Shoulder Shrug, and while downstairs Hans realizes just how cold it is for Max. Max begins coming upstairs at night and sitting in Rosa and Hans's room by the fire, where he reads and sleeps, and then returns to the basement in the morning. By the fire, Max tells them stories about his life, his family, and his escape.
Liesel hears Max waking from his nightmares and tells him about her nightmares, too. She decides that she can now handle her nightmares on her own. She notices more and more that the world inside their house is very different than the world outside. Liesel also brings Max the newspaper so that he can do crossword puzzles.
For Liesel's 12th birthday, Rosa and Hans give her a book, The Mud Men. Max wants to give her something, too, but he has nothing to give. Liesel hugs him, and he vows to give her a gift.
Max and Liesel's relationship develops and deepens in this chapter. Liesel is motivated to communicate with Max because of their mutual love for books and words. Later, their nightmares bring them together. The crossword puzzles illustrate how words serve as one of Max's distractions and how Max is a master of words. Max demonstrates that he is a captivating storyteller, a role that he will continue to fill for Liesel as the novel progresses. He becomes her source of courage to take on her nightmares without the help of Hans. Max helps her now, and in many ways later, to mature.