Similarities Between Liesel Meminger and Lisa Jura

     This is an essay I wrote for my English class comparing Leisel Meminger, the protagonist of the novel The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and Lisa Jura, protagonist The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen. If you've haven't read these books, then you definitely need to, as they're two of the most accurate holocaust books I've ever read. The Children of Willesden Lane is nonfiction, but don't let that steer you away from it. It's written like a fiction story, but also shows how the Holocaust affected countries outside of Germany.

     “This was her family, they had helped her through it – this was their answer also.” (Golabek and Cohen pg. 213) While it’s referring to Lisa and the others living in the hostel, this quote can also apply to Liesel, Max, and the Hubermanns. Both girls got torn away from their families and, due to fear and respect, grew to love and trust the people living with them. Liesel and Jura are both important role models and convey teh themes of love and loss to readers.

     Lisa has a hard, troubling life, in which she loses not only her family, but everything she’s ever known. She has to leave behind her sisters, parents, and her childhood home to be shipped off to England for her safety. She then spends the time before Sonia arrives alternating between guilt for leaving instead of her sister and feeling alone in the world. After she moves to the hostel, Lisa feels like she belongs somewhere, and once she has the scholarship to work towards, begins to regain some of the happiness that she had lost since arriving. She begins to bond with the others living in the hostel, eventually thinking of them as family. However, she doesn’t think of them as a replacement for her family, but rather an extension of it.

     Liesel’s life wasn’t exactly a walk in the park either, losing her family at the young
age of ten. This young, innocent girl has to hold her dying brother in her arms as she prepares to face this new world alone. Not a day later, her mother gives her to two strangers, one of which is known for her harsh language and treatment. This leaves Liesel wondering why her mother doesn’t love her anymore and feeling alone in the world. She grows to love the Hubermanns and later, Max, after bonding over nightmares and a love for words. Without this adopted family, Liesel never would’ve become the loving and caring person she grew into, nor would she have ever experienced the one thing she loves the most, words.

     Both girls represent an underlying theme in their story, love and loss. For Lisa this love comes into play when there’s nightly bombings, causing everyone to comfort each other and bringing them closer together. In The Book Thief, however, Liesel is first shown love when her papa teaches her to roll a cigarette instead of trying to comfort her. In both instances, the way the people are acting makes the girls feel safer and, in turn, starts to bring them closer together. Although they both grow to love others, neither girl forgets everyone they’ve lost in their life. This fact helps them love more because they know what it’s like to lose someone close to your heart and don’t want anyone to go through what they did.

     “A definition not found in the dictionary. Not Leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children.”- Markus Zusak. As for loss, the love developed leads the girls to be hurt more when they lose their new family members. Neither girl’s worst loss was to death however, but to people leaving them without saying goodbye. For Liesel this loss was Max, who left because he was tired of putting the Hubermanns in harm, although they welcomed this danger. Lisa’s loss was much worse however, as Aaron left by choice instead of by requirement, and although he did come back, he would never be the same after seeing the horrors of war.

     Both The Book Thief and The Children of Willesden Lane teach important lessons such as how to love and cope with loss through their main characters Lisa and Liesel. They suffered as much as they laughed and, in the end, lost many dear loved ones, while gaining some in the process. Everyone could learn something from Lisa, Liesel, and their experiences, and understand that, no matter what, there’s always someone worse off.

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