Lessons From The Book Thief: The Danger Of Following The Crowd

    “The crowd was itself. There was no swaying it, squeezing through, or reasoning with it. You breathed with it and you sang its songs. You waited for its fire.” (pg. 110)   

    “There were the scatterings of odd men out…clapping slow and dutiful. And beautiful. Submission.” (pg. 63)

    In the study of Sociology, there is a concept called “contagion theory”. Contagion theory states that there is a tendency for individuals in a crowd to follow the predominant ideas and emotions of the crowd unquestioningly. Put simply, people in a crowd follow the crowd. Even if they don’t agree with the “predominant ideas and emotions” expressed in the crowd, they keep quiet, feeling shielded by the size and anonymity.

    Every time I’ve read “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak (all five times), this concept has struck me as a pretty huge part of the story. There were two groups of people in the town the book is set in. The noise of the vocal people of Molching, the Hitler supporters, allowed the quiet people, those who didn’t support him, to keep hidden. As long as they didn’t raise their voices and went along with the crowd, everything would be just fine.

    But what happens when someone dares to step out of the crowd and do the exact opposite of what the crowd suggests?

   Read the book to find out.


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