Werner Pfennig sits in the Hotel of Bees, manning Her Majesty. His staff sergeant, Frank Volkheimer, walks by him and shouts, “it’s starting.” The military engineer, a man named Bernd, rushes in and shuts the door behind him—here, in the most secure part of the hotel, they’ll be safe from the bombs.
The two images of confinement—both Werner’s and Marie-Laure’s—only highlight how disconnected these two protagonists seem to be at this moment. Even if they were somehow connected, they would have no way of reaching each other at this point.
Werner closes his eyes—in spite of himself, he thinks of his childhood, long ago. He imagines his sister, Jutta, and the fields of sunflowers near his house. He remembers something he heard on the radio decades ago: “Only through the hottest fire can purification be achieved.”
It’s characteristic of Doerr’s style and his balanced view of the world that he juxtaposes images of destruction with those of lovely, fleeting things—and also with scientific principles. Jutta is also introduced as Werner’s sister here. Though she rarely appears in person in the novel, Werner’s relationship with her is the most important of his life. The idea that only “hot fire” can lead to purification also symbolizes how hardship and adversity—like that faced by Werner and Marie-Laure—can lead to greater strength and even a kind of enlightenment.