Summary and Analysis PART FIVE: January 1941 “Old Ladies’ Resistance Club” to “Alive Before You Die”


While Werner is wrestling with his feelings of helplessness at Schulpforta, he remembers one of the lines from the French professor’s radio shows from his youth: “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.” This call to awareness and action is an important theme in both Werner’s and Marie-Laure’s worlds. Werner notices that the boys around him all seem intoxicated with exercise and mindless obedience. The commandant lectures them that “minds are not to be trusted.” This message is the opposite of what Werner learned as an inquisitive child, what he and Jutta used to hold most dear.

Meanwhile, Madame Manec demonstrates what it can be like to fight against an oppressive system and feel alive. She tells Marie-Laure that resisting the Germans makes her feel young again. When Etienne refuses to help the resistance effort because it is too dangerous, Madame Manec asks him, “Don’t you want to be alive before you die?” She embodies the idea that although seizing the opportunity to make personal decisions in the face of the German occupation is a risk, it is a worthwhile one.