Summary and Analysis Chapter 23

 

Summary

The afternoon after concealing Rachel and Ari in the cellar, Vianne sees nothing unusual in town. She thinks that Beck must have been wrong, but she suggests that Rachel stay in hiding one more night. When Rachel comes out briefly to get new diapers and bathe, the police come and arrest her. Rachel keeps Ari with her at first, and Vianne follows them to the train station, where Jews are being forced onto cattle cars. Rachel gives Ari to Vianne to save him.

Vianne tells Sophie about Sarah’s death and Rachel’s capture. When Beck comes home, Vianne confronts him. Beck, full of regret, explains that the Wehrmacht (the German army) is no longer in control and that the Gestapo and the SS have taken over. Beck and Vianne nearly kiss, but they pull away guiltily at the last moment.

Analysis

Rachel’s capture marks a turning point for Vianne and the way she perceives the war. Whereas she had previously tried to be neutral, neither helping the Germans nor resisting them, she realizes as she takes Ari from Rachel and watches her best friend disappear that “no one could be neutral—not anymore.” Fueled by her love for Rachel, Vianne’s decision to care for Ari is one way she will actively resist the Nazis.

Beck and Vianne’s attraction to each other illustrates the complexity of love in wartime. Although they are on opposite sides of the war effort, Beck’s sympathy and his claim to want to protect Vianne make him seem desirable to her despite their obvious differences. War has also deprived both of them of their spouses and made them want more than ever to feel close to and safe with someone. Both of them are ashamed of their near-kiss, yet their complex attraction to each other remains.

 
 
 
 
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