Summary and Analysis
PART TEN: 12 August 1944 “Entombed” to “Wardrobe”
Marie-Laure again begins broadcasting Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Werner invites Volkheimer to listen to her. Meanwhile, Etienne tries unsuccessfully to argue his way out of prison. When Marie-Laure finishes broadcasting the last of the novel, the transmission temporarily goes dead, creating a feeling of hopelessness in Werner and Volkheimer. Tired of waiting to be found, Marie-Laure begins playing a record of Etienne’s music as loudly as possible in the hope that von Rumpel will hear it and come find her.
The music surges unexpectedly into the headphones Volkheimer is wearing, filling him with hope again. He arranges a wall of rubble to protect himself and Werner, then throws a grenade toward the collapsed stairwell, opening a hole to the outside world. He and Werner break through the rubble and part ways, Werner taking the rifle to try to rescue Marie-Laure. Von Rumpel, hearing music and then a French voice, follows the sound to the wardrobe on the sixth floor. However, the sound of someone entering the house startles him. He falls backward, and his candle sets a curtain on fire.
Etienne’s reflections while he is imprisoned inside Fort National speak to the horror of war. He remembers how in WWI he knew artillerymen who could tell by the color of a shell’s impact whether they had hit stone, soil, or human flesh. War reduces humanity to a color of an explosion. As Etienne looks at all the fires burning in Saint-Malo, he thinks, “The universe is full of fuel.” In other words, if the attitude that prevails on enemy soil in a time of war were to prevail everywhere, everything in the world would be seen simply as more things to destroy, as fuel for a fire.
When Marie-Laure turns on her music and prepares herself for possible death, she takes comfort in the beautiful complexity of the world and the notion of worlds within worlds. “What mazes there are in this world,” she thinks to herself. She envisions the mind as a cosmos of its own, a space with its own complexity and its own beauty.
Finally, Volkheimer’s reaction to the music that Marie-Laure plays speaks both to the power of an intangible realm in general, and to the power of music in particular, to inspire hope.