Summary and Analysis PART NINE: May 1944 “Edge of the World” to “Agoraphobia”

Summary

Werner and his team drive to France to locate Etienne’s radio broadcast. Werner hears the broadcast and immediately recognizes the tenor of the voice and the quality of the transmission from the French professor’s broadcasts of his youth. He even recognizes the piano music after the broadcast. He tells Volkheimer that he has heard nothing. Scanning the city skyline, he finds an antenna on the chimney of Etienne’s house and concludes this is where the broadcasts are being sent from. He goes to the house and sees Marie-Laure leave.

Von Rumpel learns that he only has a few months left to live and that Marie-Laure’s father was arrested based on Claude Levitte’s information. He goes to Levitte, who provides the LeBlancs’ address to him.

Madame Ruelle informs Marie-Laure that Allied troops are coming to France within one week. A few days later, Marie-Laure visits the grotto on her way home and meets von Rumpel. She locks herself inside the grotto. Etienne realizes Marie-Laure has been gone longer than usual and goes outside for the first time in years to look for her.

Analysis

The arrival of Allied troops that Madame Ruelle refers to likely is D-Day, June 6, 1944; in her conversation with Marie-Laure that occurs during the final days of May 1944, she notes the Allies will arrive “Within the week.” Her coded statement that “the mermaids have bleached hair” appears to be a reference to the Allies’ amphibious landings on the Normandy beaches.

While Werner and his crew are traveling to Saint-Malo, they make a stop along the French coastline. Werner is so enchanted by the sight of the ocean that he unwittingly wanders into a minefield. This scene signals two things. First, Werner’s fascination with the ocean mirrors Marie-Laure’s; although the two have never met, in a sense they are kindred spirits because both of them are enchanted by the beauty of the world around them. Second, Werner’s oblivious journey into the minefield foreshadows his death, which will happen in the same fashion just a few weeks later.

The theme of seemingly insignificant things having significant power emerges when one of the Nazi soldiers debriefing Werner’s team on Etienne’s broadcast mentions that these broadcasts end with music, the meaning of which is unclear. Although the music seems meaningless, it has great meaning both to Werner and to Etienne. To Werner, the “Clair de Lune” is one of the signals that this broadcaster is the same one from his youth. For Etienne, the choice to play music despite the greater risk of being caught is an act of hopeful defiance.

Pop Quiz!

Why is Marie-Laure blind?

Q&A

What is animadversion? (From Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter)

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