Summary and Analysis PART FIVE: January 1941 “January Recess” to “Plage du Mole”


A brief glimpse into the Nazis’ mistreatment of Jews occurs when Werner and Frederick meet Frederick’s neighbor Frau Schwartzenberger, a woman with a yellow Star of David stitched onto her coat to indicate her Semitic heritage. Werner later hears Frederick’s mother telling her friends about “the Schwartzenberger crone” who will be “gone by year’s end.” This attitude troubles Werner, who is reminded of Rodel’s assault on Frederick. Werner instinctively senses that Frau Schwartzenberger, like Frederick, is hated for being different.

One of the questions raised in this section is Frederick’s level of agency, the degree to which he has control over his destiny. In Berlin, Werner learns that Frederick is driven by a fierce sense of duty when he refuses Werner’s suggestion not to return to Schulpforta. “Your problem,” he tells Werner, “is that you still believe you own your life.” Although Frederick claims to be acting out of duty, he is willing to refuse the commandant’s order to throw water on the prisoner. He exercises agency even as he denies it.

Marie-Laure’s fascination for worlds within worlds plays out during her trip to the beach. She realizes that the ocean is outside the orderly world represented by her father’s model: Reality is both more vivid and more expansive than the artificial reality she has experienced inside Etienne’s house.