Summary and Analysis Part 2: The Shoulder Shrug: Book of Fire



Uniformed men start shoveling away the bonfire's remains. Liesel notices three books deep in the pile that haven't burned. She pulls one out, The Shoulder Shrug. She tucks it beneath her shirt and feels the heat from it. As she stands with Hans, waiting for him to finish talking with another man, the book starts to burn her. She realizes, too, that someone has witnessed her act. She walks home, the book still burning against her chest.


The book burning against Liesel's chest acts as a symbol for the physical effects that words can have. Words burn themselves into the mind, and they can incite a person to action. The fact that three books survived the bonfire symbolizes for Liesel that, no matter how extreme the Nazi Party's actions are in trying to rid the world of words and ideas they do not agree with, those words and ideas will always survive and are worth fighting for. And just as Hans took painful action to keep Liesel safe (by slapping her) in the previous chapter, Liesel takes painful action by taking the hot book and hiding it in her shirt in order to preserve the words and ideas within it. The fact that someone has seen her steal a book, someone with fluffy hair which is how Liesel describes the mayor's wife earlier in the novel, contributes to the novel's tension as well as setting up a relationship between the two characters in future chapters.