In the weeks following the police officers’ visit, Madame Manec is unusually formal and polite with Etienne and Marie-Laure, as if she’s hiding something. Sometimes, she disappears for long periods of time. One day, at the kitchen table, Etienne mutters to Manec, “Blow up any German tanks?” Manec replies by telling Etienne about the proverbial frog in the pot of water. If you throw a frog into a hot pot of boiling water, it jumps out. But if you put the frog in a cold pot and slowly heat it, the frog will stay until it dies.
Etienne defends his choice by suggesting that participating in the Resistance wouldn’t accomplish anything: he wouldn’t be blowing up any tanks, for example. Manec’s response is ambiguous, and could have several meanings. She could mean that the French Resistance has to start somewhere, and slowly pave the way for more dangerous attacks later on, which the Nazi “frog” will never recognize. On the other hand, she could also be referring to people like Etienne as the “frog”—they have their rights and freedoms taken away slowly, rather than all at once, and by the time they think of fighting back, it’s too late.