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The Stood-Over Man: Max Vandenburg

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The Stood-Over Man: Max Vandenburg

In The Book Thief, Max's ability to cause change in the world is limited to the power of a Jew in Nazi Germany. Max's two greatest powers are his desire to fight for what he believes in, as well as his ability to use words to act through other people - especially Liesel

The creation of the Word Shaker is a great example of how Max was able to influence the world through Liesel. Even though he was unable to interact with people using his own words, he provided the inspiration and the starting platform for Liesel to go out and change the lives of the citizens in Molching. One such way Liesel acted vicariously for Max was during the march to Dachau, where she found him among the flowing river of filthy Jews. Max's words spoke through the actions of a broken Liesel, breaking down in the middle of the street, "Let the words do all of it ... People and Jews and clouds all stopped. They watched." (512). Much like the scene in the Word Shaker where the giant tree falls and creates a new path through the forest of propaganda, Max opened the eyes of the German people with the determination of the two to live and to love each other. "He let his mouth kiss her palm. 'Yes, Liesel, it's me,' ... Max hit the ground ... [he] hoisted himself up ... Just another pushup Max ... on the cold basement floor," (513-515). Max never gave up, and while most of the people in the aftermath of the incident returned to their normal lives, not all stayed the same. "They thought they could hear voices and words behind them, on the word shaker's tree," (450).

Max's other power is his determination to fight on and persevere through hard times to defend his friends and family. Max Vandenburg's first trial of fighting began when he was little, two to be exact, right after his father died in World War I. Gradually entering hardship and being forced to move in with his uncle and cousins helped shape the Jewish fist-fighter we all know. "There he grew up with six cousins who battered, annoyed and loved him ... fighting with the oldest one was training for his fist fighting," (188).

On the journey that Max went through to get to 33 Himmel street, he experienced things that would shape him for the remainder of his struggle. "He was German. Or more to the point, he had been," (159). Knowing that he is lost amidst a sea of hateful, obedient souls who scour the Earth only desiring to eviscerate the Jewish "stench", is what makes Max's sweaty hands and white knuckles grip the book with such ferocity. It isn't that he wants to appear to others as an aryan German, but he wants to prove to himself that he is not the animal he is made out to be. Nevertheless, Max's vision of himself as a Jewish dog is not broken so easily, "he would sit, cramped and perplexed,

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