Summary Part Eight: The Word Shaker
Summary of “Dominoes and Darkness” and “The Thought of Rudy Naked”
While the Gestapo men talk to Rudy's parents, he plays dominoes with his brothers and sisters in the other room. He remembers how men came to the school to examine his grades and give him a physical examination with no clothes on. They did the same with two other boys. Rudy listens at the door as the officers try to talk Mr. Steiner into enrolling Rudy in the elite school. Mr. Steiner refuses.
Commentary on “Dominoes and Darkness” and “The Thought of Rudy Naked”
There is great irony in this scene, or, a matter of “fate.” If Rudy had gone to the school, his father would not have been punished with conscription into the war. Oddly enough, Rudy dies by staying home while his father lives by going into the army. War is completely unpredictable, with more than enough guilt to go around. Now Rudy will feel guilt about his father's punishment. He admits he won all the races to prove himself, not dreaming he would get the family into trouble.
Summary of “Punishment” and “The Promise Keeper's Wife”
The narrator points out that all Germans are punished by the Nazis. Some die in a foreign country, some starve or die at home. Hans Hubermann is punished by being accepted into the Nazi party and drafted into the German army. He prays he won't have to go to Russia. Alex Steiner is also drafted. Taking older men is a sign of Germany's desperation. Germany is being bombed, and it is losing in Russia. Hans and Alex go to the bar the night before they leave and get intoxicated. He plays the accordion. Liesel says good bye to him at the train station. Rudy takes Liesel for a walk, and after an hour admits he is on an expedition to kill the Führer. They return home feeling better. Liesel sees Rosa asleep on the bed holding Hans's accordion.
Commentary on “Punishment” and “The Promise Keeper's Wife”
The Hubermanns and the Steiners are peace-loving family people uninterested in Hitler and the war. Even their mild rebellions are punished. Hitler is a leader for fanatics. He does not take care of his own people, and they suffer. They suffer even more as Hitler is losing the war.
Summary of “The Collector” and “The Bread Eaters”
Alex Steiner is sent to an army hospital to serve in Austria. Hans serves in Stuttgart and Essen on the LSE team, an air raid special unit that stays above ground during bombings to put out fires and rescue people. Their main job is to collect dead bodies. Hans is sickened by the deaths and the grief of survivors. Hans proves to be lucky in this war as in World War I. Another man will take his seat on the truck the day it is hit, and he will die instead of Hans.
Liesel and Rudy decide to distribute bread to the next group of Jews on the way to Dachau. Liesel is looking for Max. They put pieces of bread on the road and then hide in the trees to see what will happen. A few Jews get the bread before the soldiers notice. One soldier chases Liesel and kicks her.
Commentary on “The Collector” and “The Bread Eaters”
Hans is given a dangerous job as punishment. Others of his unit die, but as always, he is spared for some reason and will survive. It is Rudy's idea to give bread to the Jews. Liesel notes that he has changed from a cocky selfish boy to a hero. Somehow, he has resisted Nazi training.
Summary of “The Hidden Sketchbook”
Before Christmas, Rosa shows Liesel a present from Max: his sketchbook titled The Word Shaker: A Small Collection of Thoughts for Liesel Meminger. Max has written and illustrated a book about Hitler trying to rule the world with words. He plants words every day in the country and the people are hypnotized. The ugly words grow into tall trees, and people known as word shakers climb the trees and shake the words down on the citizens. The best word shakers, however, understood the power of words, such as one skinny girl who learned to shake words in a different way. Unlike Hitler, the girl planted friendship in her words, and that became the tallest tree in the forest. Hitler tried to cut down the tree of friendship, but it was too strong. The man she saved with her words climbed the tree with her and they did not come down.
Commentary on “The Hidden Sketchbook”
Max's little fairy tale gives Liesel hope that good triumphs over evil in friendship and love. Just as Hitler tries to infect everyone with hate using his words, Liesel can use words to create bonds and understanding. The power of words is celebrated as a force for humanizing instead of dehumanizing. This is a climax of the book, the heart of its moral. Max tries to comfort Liesel that no matter what Hitler or war may do, it cannot destroy their friendship. Liesel has been worried about Max, wondering where he is. Now she knows that he is safe in their friendship tree.
Summary of “The Anarchist's Suit Collection”
On Christmas Eve Rudy and Liesel go to his father's closed clothing shop and enter with the key. She says she will give him a Christmas present there. She makes him pick out a suit and put it on. He looks handsome, and when he trips and falls to the floor, she laughs and bends over him, wanting to kiss him but cannot go through with it.
Commentary on “The Anarchist's Suit Collection”
Liesel intends to give Rudy the kiss he has been trying to get for years, but she cannot bring herself to do it at the last minute. She also has the impulse to tell Rosa how much she loves her but stifles that as well. Liesel seems to be maturing, and her love wants to come out, but she has inhibitions. The friendship with Max and the kindness of the Hubermanns and her relationship with Rudy have changed her. She will regret these lost moments when she could have expressed her love when she had the chance.