The Prologue: Colour Imagery
- What do EACH of these colours represent in these pages? What do they show is taking place? What atmosphere or feeling is created around the characters and events through this colour imagery? What do the colours make you think of?
“First up is something white. Of the blinding kind.” Death starts with the colour white and uses this colour throughout the text. He describes white as “blinding” which conveys the idea that white is a bright colour because he wants to prove that it is a colour. He understands that humans believe it to not be a colour yet he is so positively sure it is. Death explains that white was not only the colour that day but it was the feeling. The white never ended that day, it was as through the whole world was under a depressed cold layer of white. It was overwhelming, everyone had no clarity.
- Death says, “When I recollect her (Liesel, the “book thief”), I see a long list of colours, but it’s the three in which I saw her in the flesh that resonate the most…Red, white, black. They fall on top of each other. The scribbled signature black, onto the blinding global white, onto the thick soupy red.”
Consider the Nazi flag during World War Two and its construction. How does this reference to colour relate to the image of the Nazi flag in World War Two? Why would this image define so much about Liesel and her experiences in the text?
“Next a signature black” Hitler created a revolutionary symbol that left a mark on the world. Black is the right colour for this brought darkness, a depressing hole to our history. What Hitler had created with the colour black had seeped through liesels life for many years so when Death collected her it had become a prominent colour in her life. This black was signature, it was hers. It was an outline on all the love she had lost, all of the shadows in her past. Black was the centre piece to the nazi flag. The symbol burned through the streets of Germany and stabbed the hearts of all opposition killed thought the war. It was the most influential and memorable part of the flag just like the harsh times that will never be forgotten in Liesels life.
Blinding white refers to the depletion of clarity in Liesels life. For so much of diesels life she was overwhelmed by many things; everything kept changing. She moved to a new family, new town, a new secret to keep. There was always something that changed in her life which often made it hard for liesel to see the light. White can often give the perception of cleanliness or a sterile environment. And at the beginning of Liesels story we learn that the world is covered in a white blanket. It makes everything look fresh, soft and full of the one clean colour white. Liesel isn’t clean white, she is dirty and scruffy even so in a new beginning. Corruption is a burden on Liesel, everywhere she turns it shows up. There are flaws in all human beings and Liesel sees this, she knows they are the mess that soaks through the creases in the sterile or clean environment.
Red, “thick soupy red” like blood spilling out on Himmel street, it once was heaven yet now it is just a sea of the destroyed and dead. The moment these bombs fell was the moment liesel lost hope. She almost lost everything. The sky fell above her and there was no coming back it seemed. Red was prominent because of this, it was the colour stuck to the nazi flag and the colour weeping through liesel.
- Use the additional references to white, black and red in the text: the description of Frau Hermann, Rudy covering himself with charcoal, Max hidden in the darkness and the fire burning books. Select relevant quotations and explain what these colour references show in these sections of the text.
“Chalky hand and wrist…she reached out, cold-fingered….long, light eyelashes.” p.144
“Chalky” gives Frau Hermann texture. She probably looked so pale she was unhealthy looking as at the time of the declaration of war, Germany began to spiral down into rationed food and loss of work. Chalk is fragile and can easily be broken however it is smooth and soft. Then when drawn onto the cold block of concrete Frau Hermann is all the grooves and dents are exposed.
“A small, black room. In it sits a Jew. He is scum. He is starving. He is afraid. Please – try not to look away.” p.150
Black seems to be the colour of all the unwanted problems or hard times that Germans did not feel the need to see. However black is so harsh it stands out. “Please- try not to look away” it was easy to see this man surrounded by all the darkness of everything that the colour black represents. “In it sits a Jew”, the body language portrayed suggests that standing up was no longer an option for standing can be seen as an action ready to take like walking, being strong. The weakness had settled and the black darkened place engulfed him to be closer to the ground by sitting.
“And now, we say goodbye, to this rubbish, this poison….The orange flames waved at the crowd as paper and print dissolved inside them. Burning words were torn from their sentences. On the other side, beyond the blurry heat….you didn’t see people. Only uniforms and signs.” p.120-121
The burning of books is red. Its red because it is the enraging anger and power that the nazi party felt and used it to control the germans. “The orange flames waved at the crowd” they waved away the past and engrained the idea to bring this new life in and grow it. The flames were so bright that the outside world could see this, it was “a little red flag” raised to show the world they were ready, burning books was only the start.