Summary and Analysis
PART THREE: June 1940 “The Boches” to “Perfumer”
The Germans arrive in Saint-Malo, and Marie-Laure’s father won’t let her leave the house because it is too dangerous. Although he tells her they will return to Paris soon, they have no timeline for their stay. Marie-Laure spends her time with Etienne, imagining other places as he reads. One day he shows her a radio transmitter stored in the attic, where Etienne and his brother, Henri (Marie-Laure’s grandfather), recorded radio shows about science until Henri died in WWI. After Henri’s death, Etienne used to broadcast the shows in memory of his brother.
At Schulpforta, the technical sciences teacher, Dr. Hauptmann, discovers Werner’s aptitude for technology. Hauptmann orders Werner to spend every night in his laboratory and begins teaching him trigonometry. An enormous older student named Frank Volkheimer is also there, and Hauptmann promises that Volkheimer will look out for Werner. Werner writes letters to Jutta that sound optimistic and patriotic.
A perfumer named Claude Levitte notices Marie-Laure’s father wandering around Saint-Malo taking measurements of the streets. He reports this suspicious behavior to the Germans.
This section of the story is full of dramatic irony, which means readers know things about the story that the characters don’t know. When Etienne describes the science radio shows he and his brother, Henri, used to record, he tells Marie-Laure that he doesn’t know if anyone ever heard them. Readers know that these broadcasts inspired Werner and Jutta, who grew up listening to them. What seems like an insignificant action to Etienne is in fact very significant.
Readers also know, unlike the perfumer, that the measurements of the city Marie-Laure’s father takes are for a model of Saint-Malo for Marie-Laure. Although her father’s actions are innocent, the perfumer sees them as suspicious. This scene also warns readers that Marie-Laure’s father is in danger, though he himself doesn’t know it yet.
Werner’s letters to Jutta are full of optimism and loyalty to Hitler, but because readers know from the narration that Werner has doubts, it’s safe to assume that his optimism is partially a show put on for his sister—and perhaps for himself. During WWII, mail censorship was common not only in Germany, but also in Allied countries such as England and the United States; all of Werner’s letters to Jutta contain portions that are blacked out by censors as potential security risks.