When Hauptmann refuses to allow Werner to leave Schulpforta, Werner realizes just how much he has lost control over the course of his life. Werner now has only two choices: to continue doing what he is told, or to refuse like Frederick and be punished accordingly. In a heavily censored letter to Jutta, Werner writes that Frederick believed there is no such thing as free will. Nearly the entire letter is blacked out until the phrase, “I hope someday you can understand.” Werner seems to be explaining how he has no control over his decision to do the Reich’s bidding, a message that the mail censors have deemed unpatriotic and therefore dangerous.
Marie-Laure’s observations of Madame Manec and Etienne illustrate the power of fear to keep people from taking control of their lives. Etienne’s fear of being arrested leads him to passively support the occupying Germans by hindering the resistance effort. Madame Manec argues that the slow onset of German oppression has made Etienne blind to its danger. She compares the French to a frog in a pot of water slowly raised to a boil: Because the frog doesn’t notice the temperature change, it doesn’t try to jump out of the pot and dies in the boiling water.