Summary and Analysis PART FIVE: January 1941 “Orders” to “Relapse”


Werner’s orders to join the war front are more proof that he doesn’t seem (at least in his own mind) to have control over his life. If he doesn’t obey the orders, he will be punished like Frederick—and his visit to Frederick makes this choice seem impossible. Not only is Frederick badly wounded by the people who attacked him at Schulpforta, but his mind has been so greatly altered that he is no longer himself; he doesn’t have any of the individual wants and desires that he once did. Ironically, although Frederick was the one who told Werner that Werner’s life’s path was predetermined, Frederick is the one who exhibits the dangers of acting with free will. One dangerous decision against the Reich has made it impossible for Frederick to ever make his own decisions again.

The mysterious letter from Marie-Laure’s father instructing her to look “inside Etienne’s house, inside the house” is a reminder of the theme of worlds within worlds—although Marie-Laure doesn’t understand what this phrase means until much later. Madame Manec’s words to Marie-Laure shortly before she dies—“Heaven is a lot like this”—raises this same theme, seeming to blur the boundaries between this life and the next one, asking where one world ends and another begins.