Summary and Analysis
Isabelle meets with her father, Julien, who has overheard the Gestapo discussing the Nightingale and begs her to let someone else take over her work. She refuses. During her next trip to the Spanish border, Isabelle and three Allied airmen are at Madame Babineau’s cottage when a group of Nazis places them all under arrest.
Henri is arrested for his resistance work as well, and Von Richter becomes suspicious of Vianne because she has been seen with Henri. He interrogates her, and she claims to know nothing about Henri’s resistance work. During the interrogation, she reveals her weakness by begging Von Richter not to harm her children.
When Julien tries to persuade Isabelle to have someone else take over her resistance role, Isabelle immediately assumes that her father wants her to surrender her role to a man. After all, she thinks, his job stealing blank identity papers puts him in even greater danger than she is in. Isabelle believes her father still undervalues the importance of women to the French resistance effort. Like the Germans, who have assumed that the Nightingale must be a man, Julien reasons that it is better for a man to incur the risk of playing the Nightingale’s role.
Vianne’s love for children lies at the root of her compliance with the Germans in the early part of the war: She refused to endanger Sophie by resisting. Now this same devotion lies at the root of her resistance work: She risks her life for Jewish children because she can’t bear to ignore their plight. Von Richter sees Vianne’s love for children as a weakness he can exploit; ironically, it is also a source of unexpected strength.