Marie-Laure’s father has been gone from her life for 29 days. One day, Marie-Laure hears Madame Manec and Etienne arguing—Manec says, “I cannot stand by one moment longer.” Manec instructs Marie-Laure to take her cane and walk outside. Slowly, Manec teaches Marie-Laure to walk through the streets, all the way to the ocean. Marie-Laure is terrified and awestruck by her sense of the ocean—the roar of the waves and the smell of salt. She’s also relieved that she’s not being arrested for being blind, as she always feared she’d be. She explores the beach and takes shells from the shore, putting them in her pocket. Manec continues to guide her along the shore for many hours. When they return to Etienne’s house, Marie-Laure gives Etienne the shells she collected.
Here we are reminded that Marie-Laure had not left Etienne’s house since arriving in Saint-Malo—she hadn’t even experienced the ocean yet, even though it’s so close by. Daniel had always made sure she stayed inside (at least until he finished his model), and it’s only in his extended absence that Manec goes against his wishes. Marie-Laure forces herself to overcome her own fears of being arrested and tortured, and in doing so, she emerges from the episode a stronger, more confident young woman. Once again Marie-Laure is associated with sea shells and mollusks—beautiful, fragile creatures who are nevertheless strong and enduring.