Marie-Laure, sitting in the wardrobe, hears a mysterious person ask, in French, “Are you there?” The mysterious person might as well be Madame Manec, Marie-Laure’s father, or Etienne—he symbolizes everyone who’s ever abandoned her. The man whispers, in clumsy French, that he doesn’t want to kill her—he’s been listening to her radio broadcast, and loves the piano music.
Throughout the book, we’ve been faced with heartbreaking examples of people trying and failing to connect. Here, at the heart of the novel, Doerr gives us one more attempt at connection between two unlike people: the novel’s protagonists. We can feel the plot itself pushing Werner and Marie-Laure together, as the two storylines of the book have been building up to this moment for some time now.
The narrator notes that all humans begin as a single, microscopic cell. Over time, this cell divides into many cells—and eventually becomes an entire human body. Suddenly, we cut back to Marie-Laure and Werner. Marie-Laure decides to emerge from the wardrobe, and Werner helps her get out.
At this moment of great pathos, Doerr cuts away from Werner and Marie-Laure for a moment to talk about humanity in the most general terms—stepping back, just as he did in describing the long history of Saint-Malo. We are all made from the same “stuff,” he argues—cells and DNA. It’s a strangely clinical way to talk about life, but the point is clear: humans are more similar than they’re different. It’s this appeal to our common nature that justifies Marie-Laure’s decision to trust Werner on instinct, and to emerge from the wardrobe.