Figurative Language
Figurative language is speech or writing that departs from literal meaning in order to achieve a special effect or meaning. (Definition from

In the novel, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, many different types of figurative language were used to help convey the story, such as similes, metaphors, personifications, epithets, dramatic irony, situational irony, and foreshadowing. Each form of figurative language brings something different to the novel.


A simile is a comparison between two unlike things, using the words like or as. An example of a simile from the novel is as follows: "'The sky is blue today, Max, and there is a big long cloud, and it's stretched out like a rope. At the end of it, the sun is like a yellow hole'" (Zusak 249). The first simile is describing how Liesel sees a cloud stretched so thin in the sky she explains it to Max by saying it looked like a rope. The second simile is describing how endless and beautiful Liesel believes the sun is on that particular day due to its position in the sky near the rope-like cloud. Overall, Liesel is describing the weather on the particular day to be extremely favorable and intriguing.


A metaphor is a comparison between two unlike things, not using the words like or as. An example of a metaphor in the novel is as follows: "A necklace of sweat had formed around her throat" (Zusak 122). This metaphor is basically describing how profusely Liesel was sweating. In real life, no one would wear a piece of jewelry made of sweat.


Personification is giving human characteristics to non-living objects. An example of personification in The Book Thief is as follows: "Even death has a heart" (Zusak 242). Personification is utilized in this quotation because death is a non-living object that has a human organ, a heart. This impossible situation is just one example of personification in the novel.



An epithet is a word or phrase used in place of a person's name. An example of an epithet is illustrated in the following quotation. "Fṻhrer" (Zusak 521). In the novel, Adolf Hitler is referred to as the Fṻhrer in place of his name. Hitler was called a variety of names, but the Fṻhrer was among the most common.


Dramatic Irony

Dramatic irony is when the audience knows something that a character does not know. An example of dramatic irony from the text is as follows: "When it stopped, they were all crowded onto the right-hand wall of the truck, their faces wedged against the filthy uniform next to them. Questions of health were passed around until one of the men, Eddie Alma, started shouting, 'Get this bastard off me!' He said it three times, fast. He was staring into Reinhold Zucker's blinkless eyes" (Zusak 475). This quotation illustrates dramatic irony because the reader knew that Reinhold Zucker was going to die because the narrator, death, explained it in the section entitled "THE CARDPLAYER". He told us that Reinhold Zucker would take Hans' place in a few weeks because he despised Hans since he had lost his cigarettes to him in a card game. Overall, this quotation was an accurate example of dramatic irony from the novel, The Book Thief.

Situational Irony

Situational irony is a situation or event that doesn't turn out the way you thought or the way it was planned. An example of situational irony is illustrated in the following quotation. "It was dark when he arrived home. It was a day later than expected, as the train was delayed due to an air-raid scare. He stood at the door of 33 Himmel Street and made a fist" (Zusak 492). This quotation clearly reveals how Hans' return home was unexpected. The readers had not expected or even considered that Hans would be home before his full-term of military service was over. From a character's standpoint, the quotation reflects situational irony because both Liesel and Rosa Hubermann would have never thought that their loved one would be home again so soon. In the end, this passage reflects situational irony from two different standpoints, the readers and the characters'.


Foreshadowing is the prediction of an event before it happens, through hints and clues. An example of foreshadowing from the novel is as follows: "From the toolbox, the boy took out, of all things, a teddy bear. He reached in through the torn windshield and placed it on the pilot's chest. The smiling bear sat huddled among the crowded wreckage of the man and the blood. Af few minutes later, I took my chance. The time was right" (Zusak 10). This quote foreshadows the event later on in the book when Rudy Steiner had come upon the plane with a toolbox in hand. He saw the pilot and just like the quotation explained, placed a smiling teddy bear with the pilot before he had died. A lot of foreshadowing occurred in the novel The Book Thief.


Definitions of figurative language terms were found in Writer's Inc. Copyright 2010, by Great Source Education Group, Inc. in Wilmington, MA