All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

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All the Light We Cannot See Three (June 1940): Time of the Ostriches Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Time goes by, and still Marie-Laure and her father Daniel don’t return to Paris. Marie-Laure is eager to return, and calculates that she’s spent about a third of a year away from her home. In the meantime, however, she’s become close with Etienne. Her father spends his days making models for her so that she can walk through the streets safely—and in the meantime he won’t let Marie-Laure leave the house. Marie-Laure is eager for her father to complete the model, so that she can familiarize herself with the city and then begin exploring it. But she also remembers what the boys said about her months ago: “They’ll probably take the blind girls before they take the gimps.”
Marie-Laure is still haunted by doubts about her own abilities. She’s intelligent and highly capable, but can’t escape the fact that she’s blind, and therefore considered subhuman by the Nazi German state. We can sense that Marie-Laure is “regressing” because of World War II—she’s losing her old confidence and returning to the self-doubt she thought she’d conquered years previously. Meanwhile, Daniel seems to be pouring his frustration and fear into a new project, and a gift for his beloved daughter—the model of Saint-Malo that we have already seen in the prologue.
Themes
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
As time goes on, the mayor of Saint-Malo begins taxing his people more heavily, supposedly on behalf of the Nazis. People look the other way at Nazi cruelty, and Madame Manec mutters that this is the “time of the ostriches”—everyone’s head is buried in the sand. All this time, Marie-Laure’s father continues whittling models of the buildings.
We end the chapter with a poignant image—the ostrich burying its head in sand, often taken as a symbol for willful ignorance (or a purposeful blindness, to connect to the symbol of vision). This image is seemingly best applied to Werner, not Marie-Laure (as Werner senses that he’s surrounded by evil, but simply doesn’t want to know about it), but Manec seems to direct it at the townspeople of Saint-Malo—clinging to what is comfortable or familiar and purposefully ignoring the immorality occurring around them. This kind of willful ignorance was crucial to the rise of Nazism, and in allowing the Holocaust itself to occur.
Themes
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon