Summary and Analysis
Vianne tells Rachel she is worried about Isabelle, who was supposed to be on her way from Paris but hasn’t arrived. Later that day, three refugees carrying a dead infant come to Vianne’s door asking for food and water, which she gives them. A whole crowd of refugees follows close behind them, and Vianne, realizing she can’t help everyone, locks her doors.
When Isabelle and Gaëtan arrive at Vianne’s house, they sleep in the backyard because the doors are locked. Isabelle makes Gaëtan promise again that he will take her with him to war, and they kiss to seal the bargain. Isabelle tells Gaëtan she loves him.
The next morning, Vianne finds Isabelle outside, abandoned by Gaëtan. Vianne gives Isabelle a bed and food, and finds a note from Gaëtan among Isabelle’s clothes in which he wrote, “You are not ready.” Vianne and Isabelle hear a radio broadcast saying the French government has surrendered to Germany.
The French military invested much of its hope in the Maginot Line, a defensive military border designed to be impervious to attack. When the Germans broke through this line, French defeat seemed certain, leading to France’s quick surrender.
Within this context, the French had a difficult time holding onto hope of resistance. Like the refugee mother at Vianne’s door clinging to her dead infant, those who clung to the hope of resisting Nazi power seemed foolishly optimistic. Thus, when Vianne and Isabelle hear the radio broadcast about the French surrender and Isabelle says she wants to continue fighting, Vianne insists that resistance is futile. While history would ultimately regard French resisters like Isabelle as heroes, their pragmatism was difficult to see in the midst of the war.
Vianne’s decision to lock her doors from the oncoming refugees (and, in doing so, to lock out her sister) shows how wartime can inhibit compassion, making sympathetic people like Vianne complicit with the terrors of the war.