Summary: Part 9 & Part 10
In May 1944, summoned by the new commander, Werner and his team enter the town of Saint-Malo. They take up residence at what was once a lavish hotel. Von Rumpel, whose health is rapidly declining, receives word that before he was arrested, Daniel Leblanc was staying in Saint-Malo, and von Rumpel decides to go there in pursuit of the diamond. He learns the location of the house where Leblanc had stayed from the perfumer. Through her network of informants, Marie-Laure receives news that Allied forces are expected to arrive in Saint-Malo within weeks. Werner finally catches an illicit broadcast, and he is astonished to realize that the voice is the same one from the childhood program that he and Jutta once listened to. He initially hides the fact that he has detected the broadcast from Volkheimer. Without telling anyone, Werner searches the city until he finds the house which is in the right position to make such a broadcast possible.
Unsure what to do, Werner watches the house, hoping to glimpse the mysterious Frenchman. Instead, he witnesses Marie-Laure leaving the house to go to the bakery. As Marie-Laure is returning, she stops at the secret grotto, where she is approached by von Rumpel, who tries to question her. Terrified that he will find the coded paper hidden in the loaf of bread, Marie-Laure locks herself in the grotto. Von Rumpel continues to stand on the other side of the gate, trapping her there. She swallows the paper with the message in order to keep it secret. Noticing that Marie-Laure has been gone for too long, Etienne goes out to look for her, leaving his house for the first time in more than twenty years. Eventually, von Rumpel gives up in frustration and leaves. Etienne and the baker come and find Marie-Laure hiding in the grotto.
As the weeks pass, Werner continues to hide the illegal broadcasts and dream about the beautiful young girl he saw. After Marie-Laure recovers, she begins to wonder why the German soldier was questioning her. Recalling that her father sometimes hid surprises in model houses when she was a child, she investigates the model of her uncle’s house and finds a gemstone hidden inside of it. Unsure what to do, she keeps it hidden in her pocket. She is also preoccupied because Etienne is going out that night on a mission related to identifying the coordinates of the Germans so that this information can be transmitted to Allied forces. While Etienne is out, he is arrested by von Rumpel. Marie-Laure is worried about her uncle when he does not come, so she refuses the order to take shelter in advance of the bombing.
In August 1944, Werner again hears a young woman reading on the radio. He plays the radio for Volkheimer, explaining that he has known for weeks about this illicit radio and has done nothing to report it. Etienne is imprisoned along with many other Frenchmen with no way of getting word to Marie-Laure. After four days of fruitlessly searching the house, von Rumpel is close to giving up. He learns from another German soldier that the town is being abandoned and that there will be a brief ceasefire the following day to allow for the evacuation of civilians. After four days hiding in the garret, Marie-Laure has run out of food and water. She begins to play the piano record loud enough that it will attract the attention of whoever is in the house. When Werner and Volkheimer hear the music playing over the radio, Volkheimer makes one last desperate attempt at escape by constructing a makeshift barrier and then blasting the blocked rubble with a grenade.
After the grenade blast, Volkheimer and Werner escape. They part ways because Werner is desperate to reach the house from which the girl is broadcasting. He has heard her expressing her fears that she will be killed. Von Rumpel, delirious and confused from his illness, cannot figure out where the sound of music is coming from. Lured by the sound, he begins rifling around in the wardrobe, and as he does, he hears someone else entering the house. It is Werner. Werner and von Rumpel confront each other in the sixth-floor room where the wardrobe is located. Von Rumpel assumes that Werner is also hunting for the diamond and threatens him with his pistol. While von Rumpel is distracted, Werner shoots and kills him.
Hidden upstairs, Marie-Laure hears the shot and then different footsteps in the house. Werner calls out that he has heard her radio, and she comes out. Werner explains that he will help her escape from the town during the ceasefire and tells her about listening to her grandfather’s broadcasts during his childhood. As they wait for the ceasefire, Werner imagines staying with her in the house forever. Neither Marie-Laure nor Werner understands why von Rumpel was searching the house. When the bombing stops, they step out into the street together. Marie-Laure pauses to go to the grotto, where she deposits something where it will be washed away when the tide floods in. She leaves the key to the grotto with Werner, and they part ways. He knows she will be safer if she is not accompanied by a German soldier.
After Marie-Laure evacuates, she is reunited with the baker and Etienne. The German army in Saint-Malo officially surrenders a few days later. Werner tries to flee but is quickly arrested and taken to a prison where he falls ill and suffers from delusions. In September 1944, he staggers deliriously out of his hospital tent, steps on a landmine, and is killed instantly.
Analysis: Part 9 & Part 10
Shortly after arriving in Saint-Malo, Werner finally engages in an act of resistance and defiance. He hears an illicit broadcast, but rather than reporting it and tracking down the source, he hides this information. A number of factors lead Werner to make this choice, which is extremely risky since it would be in defiance of the orders given to him as a soldier. Werner has been broken by the trauma of watching the woman and girl be murdered in Vienna, and he is also exhausted by debilitating illness. Based on what he has seen, he can no longer believe in the grand vision of the German war effort, and he can also tell that Germany is almost certainly going to lose the war, which makes everything seem increasingly futile. Additionally, the specific nature of the broadcast makes him unwilling to betray whoever is broadcasting. In what seems like an astonishing coincidence, Werner is reunited with the voice of the man who gave him hope during his childhood and effectively shaped him into the person he is now. The anonymous Frenchman is the closest Werner has ever come to having a father, and contact with this voice symbolizes the possibility of him returning to his more innocent self before was corrupted by the Nazi war effort.
Werner’s act of resistance is what finally brings him into contact with Marie-Laure, as though he had to take a stand for his journey to come full circle. Had Werner simply reported the illicit broadcast, Marie-Laure and Etienne would have been imprisoned and possibly killed. Instead, Werner tracks the source of the broadcast secretly because he wants to meet the Frenchman who is responsible for it, and in so doing, he gives them a chance at survival. Werner’s encounter with Marie-Laure reveals that the two of them are no longer children. He is mature enough to experience desire and romantic feelings, and she is mature enough to be perceived as an alluring young woman. Perhaps because Werner has been isolated for so long, he is deeply moved by the simple sight of a young woman carrying a loaf of bread. While he feels romantic attraction when he looks at Marie-Laure, this moment also echoes his sense of protectiveness and moral responsibility toward Jutta and the young girl in Vienna. He wants to keep Marie-Laure safe, and in order to do so, he must assume the risk of keeping the broadcasts secret. For once, Werner puts his safety and success second to that of someone else.
Both Marie-Laure and Volkheimer engage in desperate, last-ditch actions which end up proving to be their salvations. Volkheimer has repeatedly encouraged Werner to keep trying to find a way out at moments when Werner might simply have accepted their fate as dying buried in the rubble. While Volkheimer is a morally ambiguous character, he functions here as an ally to Werner, and he also does not rebuke Werner when Werner admits that he has been hiding illicit broadcasts. Volkheimer is the one who takes the bold action of using a grenade to try and blast their way out: this action could potentially kill both men, but Volkheimer believes that at least they would die knowing they had exhausted all of their options. Likewise, when Marie-Laure runs out of food and water, she knows she can no longer stay hidden, but she wants to die defiantly, celebrating the human spirit. By playing music, she showcases bravery and resistance. Even if the German soldier takes away her life, she will die unbroken, celebrating the things that made life worth living.
Once Werner is free, he takes a bold action that is the opposite of the many moral failings he has exhibited to date. He goes directly to the house where he knows the broadcast will be coming from, rather than trying to protect himself. Knowing that German defeat is imminent, Werner could have taken advantage of his freedom from the cellar to save himself. While there is no way of knowing what might have happened if Werner had not gone to help Marie-Laure, the subsequent information that Volkheimer survived the Allied liberation of Saint-Malo implies that Werner may have effectively sacrificed himself when he made this choice. However, Werner finally has a chance to help someone after failing to protect Jutta, Frederick, and the girl in Vienna. He chooses to act. Though this action does not negate his previous failures, it does represent an eventual triumph of good over evil. Werner’s impulse to protect Marie-Laure leads to him killing von Rumpel, but this action is carefully framed so as to limit Werner’s moral culpability. Readers know that von Rumpel is close to death already, and Werner only shoots the other man when von Rumpel threatens to kill him first. After years on the front lines of war, Werner only kills one person, and that was done in a morally justifiable way. This staging allows Werner to finally be presented as a type of hero because he finally acts in a way that is aligned with his values.
The meeting between Marie-Laure and Werner gives them a bittersweet taste of joy but no long-term safety. Even though she was so suspicious of the other unknown presence in the house, Marie-Laure immediately trusts Werner. She is also able to overlook the fact that he is German and does not treat him like an enemy. Because of their isolated circumstances, and the fact that they have both barely escaped with their lives, the two of them do not get caught up in how they should feel and simply enjoy each other’s company. They recognize the humanity in one another. Additionally, the suffering they have both endured means neither of them will take anything for granted again, and the short time they spend together is meaningful for them both. Marie-Laure makes it to relative safety and is even reunited with Etienne, which allows her to have a fairly stable and secure life after the war ends. Werner, however, is on the losing side of the war and dies a tragic accidental death. The symbolism of Werner being killed by a German landmine indicates the futile and self-destructive nature of war. War always includes destruction for people who never wanted to be involved at all. In this way, Werner dies in part as he lived, as a casualty of the Nazi state.