Summary and Analysis
Part 5: The Whistler:
The Gamblers (A Seven-Sided Die)
Death apologizes for spoiling the ending. He backtracks to mid-April 1941. Max wants a haircut and asks Liesel to give him one. In May, Liesel is tempted to tell her secret to Frau Hermann while reading The Whistler in her library, but she doesn't. When she leaves, Frau Hermann tries to give Liesel the book, but Liesel won't take it. Liesel continues to bring newspapers to Max, as well as reports of her day to Max. He asks what the weather looks like. Liesel describes it in words that only a child can, saying that the clouds are like ropes and the sun is like a yellow hole. Max paints this picture on the basement wall and draws himself and Liesel walking the rope of clouds.
Max begins to feel as if he is disappearing; he feels gray. He starts doing push-ups and sit-ups, and he daydreams about being in a boxing ring with the Führer, surrounded by a large and loud crowd. The match is set up so that Max will lose, despite his efforts to fight back, and in the end Hitler uses his words to set the crowd upon Max. Max tells Liesel about this new dream, how he fights the Führer for hours at a time.
Hans, Rosa, Max, and Liesel work on painting the rest of the pages from Mein Kampf so they can make another book, The Word Shaker.
Liesel takes the washing for the last time to 8 Grande Strasse. She reads in the library and, again, Frau Hermann insists Liesel take The Whistler. This time, Liesel does. Then, Frau Hermann hands Liesel a letter and apologizes to Liesel, telling her to apologize to her mother, too. Although Frau Hermann doesn't say it, Liesel knows that Rosa has been fired from her last washing job. Frau Hermann says that Liesel can still come by and read. Liesel thanks her and leaves, then sits on the steps just outside and reads the note from the mayor, which outlines why the Hermanns are canceling their washing service. As she begins her walk home, Liesel becomes increasingly angry with the mayor and his wife, especially with the gift of The Whistler. She views this gift as one made out of pity and turns back to the mayor's house. She knocks on the door and berates Frau Hermann, telling her that she doesn't want her worthless book, that she won't take this pity gift. She says that it's about time Frau Hermann and her husband started doing their own laundry sitting up there in their mansion. Then, Liesel brings up the Hermanns' son and says that Frau Hermann needs to face the truth that her son is dead and she's pathetic. She throws The Whistler at Frau Hermann's feet and can see that the woman is bleeding and bruised from her words.
Death compares hiding a Jew to gambling, to rolling a die, which is made up of seven sides. He uses this metaphor to describe the seven major events he discusses in this chapter that all result from this gamble.
Liesel's describing the weather to Max demonstrates that she is beginning to master words and that she has a sharp and unique perspective on the world. Her bond with Max deepens.
The theme of colors returns with Liesel's descriptions, as well as with Max's description of himself, how he is both physically and emotionally fading away.
Again, Max has dreams, but this time the dreams are during the day. His boxing match with the Führer serves as a metaphor for the actual fight in which he's engaged, namely that of being a Jew under persecution. The Führer's speech in the ring indicates the power of words and how they help him gain followers. It also illustrates how planting the seed of a thought in one person's mind can be dangerous in that it can lead to many others adopting that same mentality and then acting upon it. Still, Max fights, as he has said he will always do.
The theme of words and their power is reflected in Liesel's verbal abuse of Frau Hermann, too. Liesel can see how much her words have injured Frau Hermann; their effect is so powerful that Liesel imagines physical wounds like blackened eyes and a bloody nose and lips.