Summary and Analysis
PART THREE: June 1940 “Occuper” to “Vienna”
Marie-Laure and her father settle into the house of her great-uncle Etienne. They learn that the Germans are occupying France, and Marie-Laure struggles to understand what this means. After three days in the house, she finally meets Etienne, who is kind but not entirely in touch with reality.
Meanwhile, Werner prepares to leave for Schulpforta. On his last day in Zollverein, he talks with Jutta, who worries that the Nazi school will make him brutal like other Nazi youth. She tells him that the foreign radio broadcasts report that the Germans are committing “atrocities” in other countries. Werner goes to Schulpforta, where life is rigid and harsh. He shares a bunk with a boy named Frederick, who loves birds and becomes Werner’s only friend.
A Nazi sergeant major named Reinhold von Rumpel is introduced as an overseer of the Nazi confiscation of precious gems. He decides to search for the legendary Sea of Flames diamond. Von Rumpel has a distinctive sound when he walks due to his limp, which Marie-Laure will identify later in the novel.
Although Marie-Laure is afraid of Etienne before she meets him, he turns out to be much like her, challenging her understanding of “insanity.” Scarred by his time in World War I, he now sometimes sees things that aren’t there, and his life feels lost and aimless. Marie-Laure’s life, too, feels aimless, and she knows that the world she experiences is different than the world that really exists. Both Etienne and Marie-Laure spend much of their time in imagined worlds; they begin to do this together as Etienne reads aloud to Marie-Laure.
Just as Marie-Laure’s time with Etienne challenges the meaning of insanity, Werner’s conversation with Jutta challenges the meaning of ethics. Werner listens to Nazi propaganda that tells him other countries are enemies trying to destroy Germany. Jutta listens to foreign radio broadcasts that reflect the opposite: The Germans are devils and are committing “atrocities,” a word Jutta doesn’t understand. Jutta raises the question of ethics when she asks Werner if it’s right to do something only because others are doing it. Although Werner has his doubts, he chooses to ignore her.