Words: The Knife and The Pill


(This is an essay I wrote for school. We had to write about something we are passionate about. There are few things I am more passionate about that words.)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been positively captivated by words. I just loved how each one formed, on a page or in my mind, all of them with different meanings coming together to make thoughts, sentences, and stories. I’ve always marveled at how some words fit together, flowing beautifully, while others just didn’t quite work with each other. Most of all, though, I was amazed at the power that words have. One of my favorite songs, “Words” by Hawk Nelson, describes perfectly the power that words have. “Words can build you up. Words can break you down. Start a fire in your heart or put it out.”

I have come to believe that words are the most powerful thing in existence. Words have the power to make a person feel utterly alive, or completely empty. They can convince people to do something that they don’t want to, and they can keep them from doing what they should. Words can make you fall in love, and they can make you hate. Ultimately, words can heal like a pill, and they can kill like a knife.

My favorite book, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, is about a girl who goes to live with  foster parents in Nazi Germany because, as she discovers later in the story, her mother was arrested because she was a communist. Though she is illiterate at first, this girl, Liesel, discovers words and the incredible power they have. A Jewish man, Max, flees to Liesel’s foster family’s house for protection. While he is in hiding, Max and Liesel form a friendship over their mutual love of words, but he is eventually taken away to a concentration camp.

When Max is taken, Liesel finally realizes what, and who, has taken away the people she loves. She discovers that it all comes down to the Führer, Adolf Hitler, and his words. Liesel comes to understand the devastating power that words can have when used against people. “The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn’t be any of this. Without words, the Führer was nothing. There would be no limping prisoners, no need for consolation or wordly tricks to make us feel better. What good were the words?” (The Book Thief, pg. 521)

I love The Book Thief because the story tells so beautifully what I have been convinced of my whole life. Words have incredible power that can be used to create and give beauty into the lives of others, or to spread ugliness and sickness into the world around you. In the end, it’s your choice whether your words will be a knife or a pill. I have chosen that my words will heal, not harm. I hope you decide the same.


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