Summary and Analysis
PART FOUR: 8 August 1944
In 1944, von Rumpel learns where Etienne’s house is located. After waiting out the worst of the Allied shelling, he crosses the abandoned city and enters the house.
Trapped underneath the hotel, Werner and Volkheimer try to think of a way out. They consider using one of their grenades on the rubble to blast an opening, but they suspect it would kill them all. They also consider suicide. Volkheimer suggests that Werner try to fix the destroyed radio that is with them. Although Werner has already concluded the radio is broken beyond repair, he keeps trying.
In the cellar, Marie-Laure finds two cans of food, unsure what is inside them. Not hearing any more bombs falling, she climbs to the first floor to go to the bathroom, then to the third floor to drink water out of the filled bathtub. She is about to open one of the cans of food when she hears someone enter the house.
Time seems to slow down for both Marie-Laure and Werner after the bombing. They are alive, yet their lives seem purposeless and powerless. The war has once again stripped them of the power to make any decisions for themselves other than to meet their own basic physical needs and to fight for survival.
Werner, trapped underneath tons of rubble, is certain he will eventually die and wonders why he is still alive. Perhaps, he thinks, he, Bernd, and Volkheimer are being punished for their sins and given a final chance to make reparations. Werner’s musings reveal that he hasn’t fully bought into the Nazi logic despite his training. He sees his betrayal of Jutta and his actions on behalf of the Reich as sins. Although he isn’t willing to continue trying to fix the radio for the sake of the Reich, Volkheimer persuades him by appealing to Werner’s love for Jutta.
The slow pace of the story here not only provides insight into the characters’ inner thoughts but also increases the narrative tension as von Rumpel gets closer to discovering Marie-Laure. Her slow, methodical behavior, which might seem insignificant by itself, becomes ominous because she is in danger.