It is noon on the 12th of August. Marie-Laure has only two chapters of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea left to read. She can hear the intruder shouting in frustration downstairs. Marie-Laure considers simply giving him the model house with the Sea of Flames in it, but decides that she’ll finish reading Verne before she does anything else. She remembers finding whelks in Harold Bazin’s grotto—she had noticed that when the whelks were tucked securely into the rocks, the seagulls couldn’t rip them away.
Throughout the turbulent years of World War II, Marie-Laure has longed for peace and simplicity—like the life she had in Paris with her father. Again and again, she’s been denied this simplicity and security. The whelk is then the perfect symbol of Marie-Laure’s childlike desire—she wishes she were as impervious as the mollusk in its shell.