Is it necessary to steal? Yes. Is it moral and right? Perhaps not. Should I steal? Yes. No. To steal or not to steal, that is the question. In The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, there were many internal and external conflicts, such as Liesel vs herself, Hans vs the Nazis, and Liesel vs Ludwig.
There are many internal conflicts, the first being Liesel vs herself, or, man vs self. In a time where books were burnt and forbidden, Liesel repeatedly steals books to fulfil her education. This is not to say that she did not feel guilty for stealing. “She bent over and removed the smoking book, allowing it to hop sheepishly from hand to hang.” (Zusak, 125) and “Liesel, by comparison, did not speak. Perhaps it was her first realization that criminality spoke best for itself. Irrefutable.” (126) Keywords: sheepish, criminality, and irrefutable. This indicates that Liesel did not feel good about stealing – yet she continues to do so. This shows a man vs self internal conflict. Additionally, “Every minute, every hour, there was worry, or more to the point, paranoia. Criminal activity will do that to a person, especially a child…For Liesel, the paranoia itself became the punishment.” (129) This also illustrates that Liesel is doubtful about stealing. In other words, she knows that thievery is immoral, but she continues to do so in order to learn. Therefore, an internal conflict in The Book Thief is Liesel vs self.
An external conflict is man vs society: Hans Hubermann vs the Nazis. Hans had decided to help out a Jewish man who was marching to a concentration camp. “Hans Hubermann held his hand out and presented a piece of bread, like magic.” (394) and then “was whipped on the street … He was struck four times…” (394). This indicates Hans’s punishment for helping the Jews was being whipped by the Nazis. Additionally, comments like “You dirty Jew lover.” (401) was also consequences in a different form. In other words, Hans was persecuted by society (Nazis and Nazi supporters) for helping the Jewish during WWII. This can be connected to a story from my friend (anonymous). Back in elementary school, she stood up for a classmate who was being bullied and ended up being bullied as well. Therefore, Hans vs society is very similar to my friends’ experience. In short, Hans vs Nazis is an example of external conflict in The Book Thief.
Another example of external conflict is Liesel vs Ludwig Schmeikl – man vs man. This is a very simple and straightforward conflict when compared to the other two mentioned above. “she threw it away and kicked him as hard as she could… he was slapped and clawed and obliterated by a girl who was utterly consumed with rage.” (78) This shows a classic conflict – a fight. Additionally, “‘You Saukerl.’ Her voice, too, was able to scratch him. ‘You Arschloch. Can you spell Arschloch for me?'” (78) This illustrates a verbal conflict as well as a physical conflict. In other words, the conflict between the two is both physical and verbal. Therefore, there is a man vs man conflict between Liesel and Ludwig.
To conclude, there were many internal and external conflicts in The Book Thief, such as Liesel vs herself, Hans vs the Nazis, and Liesel vs Ludwig. Every single conflict that happens has a huge effect on the characters’ development, just like in real life. Every conflict we have with others or with ourselves will change who we are, and that’s why we have to choose our battles wisely.