Summary and Analysis
With Beck in Vianne’s home, tensions are high. Isabelle can barely hold her tongue, and she worries she’ll place Sophie’s safety in jeopardy if she says something incendiary. Vianne, meanwhile, tries to keep the peace. Isabelle decides to leave for Paris, but she is stopped on her way out of town by a German sentry who tells her she must have an Ausweis (an identification travel pass) in order to travel.
Infuriated, Isabelle returns to Vianne and can’t tell if her sister is relieved or disappointed that she must stay. One day when Isabelle goes to pick up the family’s meat ration, she finds a piece of chalk and uses it to vandalize a Nazi propaganda poster. A man catches her, telling her that what she has done is punishable by death.
The tensions in this chapter reveal the importance of an action’s symbolic meaning. Isabelle is concerned about having a Nazi in the house not so much because it changes the state of the war in any way but because it feels like an acceptance of German occupation on a very personal level. Likewise, Vianne feels uncomfortable drinking the wine that Beck offers and having pleasant conversations with him because of the goodwill these actions seem to imply.
Isabelle’s first act of resistance against the German occupation, drawing on a Nazi propaganda poster with chalk, is also primarily symbolic. Isabelle’s action doesn’t hold much pragmatic value—that single poster is unlikely to change anyone’s mind about the Nazi campaign—and yet it is important as a symbolic refusal to accept Nazi authority without a fight.