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Book Thief & Macbeth Comparison

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In comparing Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Zusak’s Book Thief, though the books deal with different time eras, characters and even language styles, there are some striking similarities between the themes in both novels. The themes are evident throughout both novels, these themes give a better understanding of the author’s message he wants to portray to his audience. Both books show ambition effectively in many situations. In Macbeth we see how far one man will go to see a goal accomplished and achieve his ultimatum. In the Book Thief we witness a girl with the ambition to learn how to read, and she will do anything to ensure she keeps learning. Ambition is shown in many other ways, another example in Macbeth is when a character makes a goal out of spite. The goal will not bring happiness to the individual until it is accomplished. In the Book Thief a Jewish man trains hard and dreams about fighting his arch nemesis.

The motivation behind this goal is the spite that he possesses against the man that ruined his life. Ambition is in our everyday lives people constantly make goals and try to accomplish them if it wasn’t here nobody would have anything to strive for and lots of people wouldn’t be living up to their expectations. There are many ways that ambition is portrayed in good ways and in bad. Both were present in Macbeth and the Book Thief. Both novels have characters that show their ambition on the pursuit of a goal. In Macbeth the main character Macbeth is promised a future of good outlook by three witches. The witches tell him that one day he will be king. Instead of Macbeth waiting for these good fortunes to come to him, Macbeth becomes ambitious and starts to toy around with the idea of killing the king thinking it will bring happiness to him and his wife. Macbeth could not deal with the anticipation anymore and took matters into his own hands because he thinks it is the only way to achieve happiness.

He takes his idea of killing the king and turns it into a reality, showing how far he would go to accomplish a goal. Macbeth decides to give in to his “black and deep desires” and “O’erleap[s]” (Act 1, Sc 4, Ln 4) fate he is so hungry to attain. Despite his conscious telling him otherwise Macbeth pushes morality aside and kills Duncan to accomplish his goal. Instead Macbeth’s ambition leads him to accomplishing his goal of kingship. However he lets the ambition gets the best of him and becomes paranoid. To releave such suspicions, Macbeth orders the death of his best friend to ensure that the true does not get out about his sudden rise to the throne. He worries more about having power and keeping that power than he is about his friendship. Sometimes goals can mislead an ambitious individual to look at things through rose colour glasses, these glasses cause you to believe the only important thing is your goal poor decisions are made. Macbeth arranges for Banquo’s death and claims that Banquo “[Will find heaven] tonight” (Act 3, Sc 1, Ln 140-141).

Macbeth’s decision to murder his friend proves that he cares more about keeping his goal alive and his ambition strong. The strength of Ambition can empower even those who appear weak. In the Book Thief, it is also ambition that leads a young girl to a streak of rebellion. The streak of rebellion that Liesel Meminger takes part in is the action of stealing. Liesel has become very attached with books ever since she first laid her eyes on the book left behind at her brother’s funeral. Since then she has become obsessed with literature and asks Hans to teach her how to read. Hans and Liesel tackle the task and finish her first book which was the Grave Diggers Handbook. It’s her goal to read more books and learn as much as she can about reading and she is doing everything in her power to make sure this is accomplished. Liesel shows just how bad she wants to learn when she steals “as fast as [Hans] can buy them” because of this Hans does not have to “trade anymore” (Part 3, Pg 126, Ln 4).

Hans’ quote shows how ambitious Liesel is, she doesn’t just wait around, and she takes actions into her own hands has the drive to add more books into her repertoire. Liesel is ambitious in other ways as well, when her family gets a new visitor, a Jewish man named Max. It is her goal to figure out everything she can about Max. Eventually they become very close and end up revealing secrets to each other and comfort each other through the good and bad times. (Part 4, Pg 220 Ln 6). Liesel will do anything to keep her goal alive even if that means rebelling against the morals she was raised with. The power of ambition can cause even the most harmless person to act out in obscured ways. In Macbeth, it is a goal driven by spite that causes a man to act out in an unpredictable way. The full potential of spite and revenge driven by ambition is witnessed after a family and father are murdered in cold blood. If you want something you will go after it, however if you add spite and revenge to the mix you will desire the outcome of your goal even more.

After Macbeth kills Duncan and on top of that orders the brutal slaughter of Macduff’s wife and kid, there are two men stricken with grief and vow revenge. Malcolm has raised an army in England and he along with Macduff go to Scottland to challenge Macbeth’s forces. Macduff wants justice for what happened to his kids and wife he takes actions into his own hands “my sword […] unbatter’d edge” the ambition behind his spite is so strong he wants to “find him” (Act 5, Sc 7, Ln 20-25). Malcolm was the son of Duncan and is driven by spite when he summons his army to attack Macbeth and his hierarchy in Scottland. When they are ready for departure Malcolm promises his troops “thanes and kinsmen” as a reward and hard work for getting him back the throne his dad once had. Malcolm wants to “[call] home our exiled friends [….] of watchful tyranny” (Act 5, Sc 8, Ln 63-70).

Both Macduff and Malcolm are ambitious men and in this case driven by hatred and stricken by grief they act out in an unorthodox and unpredictable way, but that’s how far they will go to see their goal accomplished. Similar to Macbeth the Book Thief has a character driven by spite as well. In the Book Thief there are two evident examples of characters acting outside of their normal personalities because of spite and hatred. Imagine how furious you would be if you tried as hard as you could to keep your goal alive, you put everything on the line and then your last customer stops needing your services. This is exactly what Liesel went through when she lost her last customer Ilsa Hermann, she acts out in an unpredictable way that caught even herself off guard. She explodes and tells Ilsa how pathetic she is “her eyes had blackened” she tells her to get over the death of her son which causes “wounds [to rise] to the surface of her skin” (Part 5, Pg 263). It goes to show how caught up in a goal people can get, how their emotions get poured into what they do and how they behave outside of the norm. In this case spite is the end result because a goal fell short of expectations, a goal that is powered by spite is also found in the Book Thief.

Max Vandenburg has a dream to fight his arch nemesis in a boxing match, every day he goes through a circuit of exercises to train for his underdog story fight against Adolf Hitler. Max is Jewish but that doesn’t discourage him from all the critiques, even though he is not accepted in society he wants to fight the Fubrer in front of them all. Max has this dream over and over again, it is anew one that is finally  different from the one he has had every night since he left his family. “I wait in the dark” in Max’s dream Hitler comes down and fights him in the dark they “fight for hours” (Part 5, Pg 255). Max blames Hitler for his constant fear of being sent to a concentration camp, he wants to be respected and feels the only way he can do that is by fighting the Fubrer. Ambition is in our everyday lives people are constantly making goals and trying to live up to their own standards. Ambition is portrayed in multiple ways two of the most evident in Macbeth and The Book Thief are ambition out of spite and normal ambition.

Macbeth accomplishes his ultimatum even though it will have repercussions because of all the risks he took to achieve his goal. Liesel Meminger has the initiative to learn as much as she possibly can about literature even if that means she has to rebel against her parents morals. Spite has a big role in ambition as well there’s nothing as sweet as revenge and that’s exactly what two individual’s want on Macbeth. A Jewish man dreams night in and night out about facing his arch nemesis in a boxing ring. So do all successful people have a greater goal that makes them want it more than all the others? Based on Macbeth and The Book Thief the answer is yes, the people who did not make a goal and strive for success didn’t live up to their expectations and the expectations of others.

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