Summary and Analysis Chapter 5



As people evacuate Paris to escape the approaching Germans, Julien sends Isabelle to stay with Vianne in Carriveau despite Isabelle’s objection that she wants to stay and fight against the Germans. Isabelle travels with the Humbert family at first; however, when the car runs out of gasoline and they must continue on foot, Isabelle loses the Humberts in the crowd of refugees.

She sets off on her own to Carriveau and meets a lone young man named Gaëtan Dubois in the forest. Although Isabelle is afraid of him at first, she feels differently when he offers her an opportunity to go with him to the war front and fight. She agrees, saying that she simply needs to visit her sister first.


Isabelle’s great desire to help with the war effort—and her inability to do so—calls attention to the way her gender limits her opportunities. As Isabelle looks at the hordes of people evacuating Paris, she notices that they are all women and children and elderly people—every able-bodied male seems to be part of the war effort. When she meets Gaëtan, who has been released from prison so that he can fight in the war, Isabelle tells him he is lucky, wondering, “Why [is] it so easy for men in the world to do as they wanted and so difficult for women?” However, Gaëtan does not believe that Isabelle’s gender should limit her in any way, indicating that he is unconventional. The first hints of romance between Isabelle and Gaëtan imply that their love will also be different from the ordinary. Gaëtan, instead of treating Isabelle as merely a physical beauty, seems genuinely interested in her desire to join the war effort.

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