Summary and Analysis
PART SEVEN: August 1942 “Sunflowers” to “Gray”
Werner hears his first Russian rebel broadcast over the radio and leads his unit to the broadcasters. Volkheimer and the others kill them, ransack their equipment, and set their house on fire. As time goes on, Werner becomes more proficient at his job. Whenever the team sees prisoners passing, Volkheimer looks for someone as large as himself to steal clothes from. Werner can only rarely receive letters from his sister, and he completely stops writing to her.
Von Rumpel is summoned to help the Reich assess the value of gems stolen from Polish Jews. Later, he sorts through the possessions of an arrested jewel thief and finds a second replica of the Sea of Flames diamond.
Marie-Laure and Etienne continue to broadcast resistance messages baked into bread, and they also begin broadcasting messages from people in the community trying to reach one another. In a world that seems to have turned drab, these broadcasts and the music Etienne plays afterwards seem to Marie-Laure like a burst of color.
In “Sunflowers,” Werner is directly responsible for his first killings. Performing the calculations that will lead to these killings, he thinks to himself, “Only numbers. Pure math.” Werner uses this lie to cope, but these words now seem hollow and false to him. “Everything has led to this,” he tells himself, recognizing that the events of his life prior to this moment have made his actions now seem predetermined and inescapable.
Even von Rumpel strives to forget the inhumanity of war as much as possible. When he is summoned to the warehouse near Lodz to inspect gems, he chooses not to think about where they have come from. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Lodz had the second-largest Jewish population in Poland, and in 1942 over 70,000 Jews and 5,000 Roma were deported from Lodz and murdered. Von Rumpel is fully aware that the jewels he inspects are taken from these victims, but he chooses to ignore it.
When Marie-Laure visits Hubert Bazin’s grotto, she reflects on the baffling nature of worlds within worlds, noting that the grotto is a universe unto itself, and within this universe are countless galaxies. Inside each upturned mussel shell is a barnacle, and inside each tiny spindle shell lives a hermit crab, and on each crab shell lives a smaller barnacle. This logic seems to extend endlessly, offering Marie-Laure worlds of possibilities.