Imprisoned in the Fort National of Saint-Malo, Etienne begs his jailers to save his niece, who is blind, and won’t be able to save herself from the air raids. His requests are ignored. An American bombshell hits the Fort, and some of the prisoners are killed in the explosion. Etienne closes his eyes and tries to remember his past. He thinks about his house, about his nephew Daniel, and about Madame Manec. He thinks of Marie-Laure and her love for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It occurs to him that every memory he ever made will be “buried” soon.
Etienne’s agony in prison is heartbreaking: he knows that his grand-niece will be in great danger, but he’s unable to protect her. It’s clear that Etienne believes that he’s going to die in this moment, as he’s thinking back to the highlights of his entire life. It also seems that Etienne was preparing for this possibility when he told Marie-Laure that she was the best thing that had ever happened to him.