The Book Thief – Prologue – Beside The Railway Line and The Eclipse

Beside The Railway Line

Is it possible that he is talking about snow? That he is off doing his thing and it has snowed the most purest of whites? This makes me think of everyone saying ‘white and black are just shades’ well if you like to say that you are entitled to your own opinion, but white and black and gray are all colours. I mean there are different shades of white and black just like there are shades of blue or red or yellow, so what really is the difference! “…personally, I don’t think you want to argue.” No, no we do not want to argue with you!

A Reassuring Announcement

Please, be clam, despite that previous threat. I am all bluster – I am not violent, I am not malicious. I am a result.

Oooh those are interesting words. Death (sorry if I spoiled it, but I hope everyone knew by now!) is not violent and he is not malicious but he is a result. How I read this, is that he is around because of death (the actual dead not the personification) and that our actions are what make him ‘alive’. Sure death does happen ‘naturally’ but a lot of death happens because of our own actions like war, famine, murder even poor diet and lifestyle which kills ourselves. Also I think he is addressing the ‘idea’ that Death is scary and evil, which is not really true, it is just what we think Death is like, which in turn if we were to ‘see’ Death then we would already think him to be ‘scary’ and thus would be afraid. But I still find that last sentence very interesting.

“Like it had pulled it on, the way you pull on a jumper.” He is amazing isn’t he, how does he come up with images like that?!?!?

So a male has died and the guards don’t know what to do and the mother and her daughter are as silent as the corpse itself (powerful image). I think they are taking the dead body back on the train and making the two women go back on the train as well and letting the next station deal with the problem. As for Death well he appears to have made a ‘mistake’. “I practically inhaled it…” now that is a powerful and unusual image for describing looking at a colour! So Death has become interested in the girl. Ah, curiosity it is a problem of us all, curiosity may well have indeed killed the cat, but how can you not be curious about the world and everything in it and out of it? The male was a youngish boy, presumably the mother’s son and the daughter’s sister. The girl is the book thief!

The Eclipse

So we move on to another death but this time it is the ‘darkest moment before dawn’, which is a nice little polarization from the resounding white. I wonder if the white and black were illustrating the difference between the ‘goodness’ of the person or the ‘innocence’ of their respective ‘souls’, like the young boy was innocent and ‘pure’ while this other man is not ‘pure’ and therefore the world is black. The man must be a pilot and has crashed his plane, but I think this has to do with the war, and he was in a fighter plane and was possibly shot down. “No more flapping. Not for this metallic little bird.” Once again I find myself loving these two sentences (I believe this will be the case for a majority of the book). I think there is an essence of humour here because of course the wings don’t flap, but the plane is doing what birds do, which is of course fly, which means that symbolically (or at least this is what I think) the wings ‘flap’.

Some Other Small Facts

Sometimes I arrive too early. I rush, and some people cling longer to life than expected.

I wonder if Death is annoyed by this or thinks better of people for not letting go (or possibly thinks that people are foolish for clinging to life here). You should always fight to live, but admittedly sometimes you do have to know when to give up, though it is better to ‘die fighting’ for you life than just to meekly give in when you could live for longer. Though if you are in terrible, terrible pain, is a few more seconds or minutes or hours worth it? It would depend if you were alone or if you were with loved ones, or if there was any chance of survival. I think throughout this story we are going to have to deal with death and all the problems and moral questions it brings, should be fun!

So the young man is still alive, and a boy arrives with a toolkit to see if the man is alive. And a few seconds pass and the book thief arrives, and Death remembers her even after a few years. Touchingly the boy pulls out of the toolkit a teddy bear and puts the bear on the man’s chest. “…loosened his soul.” Is he saying that the soul wasn’t quite ready so he slightly prematurely took the soul from the man because the man was still clinging onto life? Or loosening because that’s what you have to do?

People from around the area arrive as the sun rises and removes the darkness until all that was left was a ‘scribble’ (interesting choice of words!) and then oddly enough the scribble turns into a familiar shape of a ‘signature’, very detailed imagery yet again. And when everyone starts to leave there is a final ‘eclipse’ as the world recognises that another person has died (or at least that’s my take on it) and Death has seen many eclipses more than he cares to remember.


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