Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Word Shaker

Immediately, I noticed a theme that occurs throughout The Word Shaker. This theme is drawn out into a story that includes a large extended metaphor about a seed and a tree that grew from it. Max created this book-within- a book for Liesel, to give to her at some point. Although the story line is somewhat masked by the metaphor, it appears as though Liesel is able to understand it, despite her naivete when it comes to some aspects of occurrences in WWII.
The Word Shaker begins with Max Vandenburg's version of how Hitler became "the Fuhrer." A drawing included in this book shows Hitler in "the Fuhrer shop," which had "the Fuhrer's handbook," a swastika and small mustaches - all for free delivery. It was not until I looked much closer that I found that also in this shop, on the shelves with these various items, were two jars. One was labeled "fear" and the other "hatred." These two jars say something very clear about the Fuhrer.
In Max's background story of Hitler, Max imagines the Fuhrer deciding to "rule the world with words" (445). I think that these words are equal to the propaganda spread about Jewish people in particular, by the Nazi party. Zusak uses a very strong metaphor to equate the propaganda created by Hitler to seeds and the spread of the propaganda among many people in Germany to the growing of that one seed, which went to create many forests. One particularly fascinating, yet terrible, phrase that is used is: "{Hitler} invited his people toward his own glorious heart, beckoning them with his finest, ugliest words, handpicked from his forests" (445). One word in this phrase that stands out for me is his. Hitler invited his people. This one word suggests that these people (most likely the Nazis) belong to Hitler, which, in a way, they did.
Max writes: "They were all placed on a conveyor belt and run through a rampant machine that gave them a lifetime in ten minutes. Time disappeared and now they knew everything they needed to know. They were hypnotized" (446). Even though in the book, there is a picture of people literally going onto a conveyor belt (which we know did not occur), many people in the Nazi Party became hypnotized, so to speak. They were brainwashed not only by Hitler's strong propaganda, but also by pressure from around them.
At one point in the story, a girl representing Liesel meets a male character representing Max (who was "despised by his homeland" - 446). Liesel's teardrop became a seed of friendship, and when planted, became a tree. This new seedling was planted in the same forest where all the other trees were, which all contained words of hatred and propaganda. This, I feel, is a metaphor for the beginning of Liesel and Max's friendship in the midst of Nazi Germany. Except instead of trees, there are people holding and spreading the hatred.
Liesel's willingness to stay up in the tree somewhat echoes back to the time when Liesel stayed beside Max, when he was sick. She read to him and just sat there by him, full of hope. Also, the tree's unwillingness to be cut down signifies the strong bond that was created (and grew, like a tree) between Max and Liesel.
I find this story to be a very effective way to get across what is happening during the time in Nazi Germany. And upon finishing it, "Liesel sat at the kitchen table and wondered where Max Vandenburg was, in all that forest out there" (451). And "that forest" being the growth of propaganda (against Jews) and the people who spread it.




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