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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - the Terminal by Steven Spielberg Comparative Essay

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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Khvatov Misha

Struggle against Society  

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak  -The Terminal by Steven Spielberg comparative essay

Everyone, at some point in their lives, has struggled against Society. For example, people feel like they do not fit in, or do not agree with the direction their country is headed. Struggle against Society is a theme often explored by many novels and films, perhaps because struggling against your Society is a universal experience. Many characters experience struggle social struggle in a similar way to each other and share similar obstacles and conflicts against their respective culture. Two fascinating examples of this similarity in struggle, are Viktor Navorski from The Terminal and Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief.  Viktor Navorski is a man who flies from his fictional home country of Krakozhia to New York in search of fulfilling his deceased father's wish. His father wanted to get the autograph of every jazz performer in the famous “A Great Day in Harlem” picture. However, while Victor was in the air his home country was annexed from the inside due to a military coup. Because of this, Krakozhia became no longer recognized by the United States of America as a country. Thus, Viktor Navorski is rendered stateless, and unable to leave the airport when he lands. Viktor spends eight long months in the airport, during which he experienced many struggles against his new society of the airport staff. Liesel Meminger is a ten-year-old who lives in the heart of Nazi Germany, in the fictional town of Molching. Liesel's parents are taken from her when she is ten years old, due to them being communist sympathizers.  She is then adopted by Hans and Rosa Hubermann and faces many struggles against her society of Nazi Germany throughout The Book Thief. In this essay, it will be illustrated how Viktor Navorski’s Societal struggle from The Terminal and Liesel Meminger’s from The Book Thief are similar. Specifically, their social nonconformity, their resilience in overcoming obstacles their societies erected against them, and their compassion and kindness to the people that belong to the society, all illustrate how two protagonists, Viktor Navorski in The Terminal, and Liesel Meminger in, The Book Thief, similarly struggle against their respective societies.


The first of many striking similarities between Viktor and Liesel’s struggles against their societies is the nonconformity displayed by the two characters. In The Book Thief, Liesel was in a very poor family, which lead her to never going to school, meaning she was completely illiterate at the start of the novel. She finds a book called “The Gravedigger's Handbook” and with the help of her adoptive father, she slowly and meticulously starts to learn to read. While Liesel does eventually learn to read, at the beginning of the novel she is illiterate.   Liesel’s functional illiteracy makes her an outcast and makes her struggle against her society. For example, during a reading progress test at Liesel’s school, many students stood up and read to the class. The classroom teacher attempted to skip Liesel due to her great difficulty reading even basic texts, but Liesel insisted on going. She cannot read the book given to her by the teacher, and simply recites The Gravedigger's Handbook. For this, she is made fun of by her society, and by extension does not fit in. “ She could hear them all laughing in the classroom, between Sister Maria’s striking hand. She saw them. All those mashed children. Grinning and laughing.”  (Pg 53, Zusak) All the children were laughing at her,  ostracizing Liesel. Liesel was laughed at and ostracized by her society due to her illiteracy, demonstrating her social struggle. As well as her illiteracy, Liesel’s stealing of books also demonstrates how she goes against the authority figures of her society, and by extension does not conform to her society. In The Book Thief, the theme of stealing books plays a very prominent role in Liesel’s struggle against her society.   In the novel, during the chapter “100 PERCENT PURE GERMAN SWEAT “ a massive bonfire is held, where all books that somehow defy the Nazi Regime are burnt to ashes. “Any materials,” it requested, “from such times—newspapers, posters, books, flags—and any found propaganda of our enemies should be brought forward to the Nazi Party office on Munich Street.” (Pg 69, Zusak). The quote above clearly states that all anti-Nazi propaganda should be brought to be burnt. Liesel, however, steals a book from the pile. While the rest of the town unconditionally follows the Nazi regime, Liesel stands out as being the only one who goes against her society’s authority, the Nazi Party’s. By going against her society’s authority, Liesel Meminger demonstrates nonconformity. To summarize, Liesel’s defiance of her social authority and her difficulties with language make her not conform within her society.

The next topic to be examined after Liesel’s incongruity against her society is how Viktor’s incongruity is similar to Liesel’s.  In The Terminal Viktor Navorski arrives at JFK airport in hopes of fulfilling his dead father’s life goal. Instead, he becomes trapped in a country whose rules he cannot understand, and whose language he cannot speak. Due to Viktor being from a foreign country, he struggles and faces many obstacles during his stay at the airport. One of the most prominent ones is the language barrier. Similarly to Liesel, Viktor Navorski is ostracized by his society due to his difficulty with language.  There is a scene in the movie at thirteen minutes and thirty seconds that perfectly exemplifies this. Viktor attempts to get someone to help him operate a payphone, but due to his language problems, nobody can understand him. His outcast status is shown at 13:30-14:00 where the camera slowly zooms out to a sea of people, making it evident just how alone Viktor is. The film makes it clear that it's because he cannot understand the language, as the previous scenes were all about Viktor not understanding people, and people not understanding Viktor. This forms a connection in a viewers head between him alone in a sea of people, and him not being able to speak the language. Viktor’s struggle with his society bears very obvious similarities to Liesel’s struggle: both characters were outcasts from their society because of their language difficulties. Through the duration of The Terminal Viktor Navorski, similarly to Liesel, goes against the wishes of the authority figures of their society, thereby demonstrating nonconformity. Viktor goes against Frank Dixon’s wishes of him finally going to New York.  In The Terminal  Viktor Navorski has waited eight long months in hopes of finally going to New York City, to fulfill his dead father's wishes. Frank Dixon, attempting to prevent this, threatens Viktor’s friends and states that he will cause trouble for them if Viktor doesn't go back to his home country. The most serious thing is deporting Janitor Gupta, so Viktor decides to go back to his home country. However, Gupta gets himself deported on purpose, taking the burden of Viktor’s shoulders.  Viktor finally manages to go to New York City and fulfill his father's wishes, defying Frank Dixon.   In this, he is similar to Liesel, as she also defied the authority of her society.  Overall, Liesel and Viktor are similar due to their mutual defiance of the authority of their society, and their mutual exclusion from it due to their language.



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