Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 638
“No, no,” she said quickly. “Not that. He was working at the dining room table that day, writing something when I returned. He . . . asked me for a list of names. He wanted to know which of the teachers at the school were Jewish or communists.” She paused. “He asked about homosexuals and Freemasons, too, as if people talk about such things.”
In the above quote, Vianne confesses her treachery to Rachel, her best friend. The "he" Vianne is referring to is Captain Wolfgang Beck. Beck is a German officer billeted in Vianne's home. When he asks Vianne for a list of the teachers who are Jews, communists, homosexuals, and Freemasons, Vianne (against her best judgment) gives him the names. In her confession, Vianne realizes that her affinity to the amiable officer has put Rachel and others in peril.
Vianne's difficult position underscores the plight of many during the war. In France (as in other German-occupied countries during WWII), local citizens did not condone the Nazi treatment of persecuted minorities but were helpless to stop it. Read more about the German marking system to identify classes of prisoners.
Isabelle looked at her. “You believe me? You believe I would cross Nazi-occupied France on a lark?”
“This is not like running away to see the circus, Isabelle.”
“But . . . you believe this of me?”
“Of course.” Vianne shrugged. “So foolish.”
Isabelle looked oddly crestfallen. “Just stay away from Beck while I’m gone. Don’t trust him.”
Here, Isabelle is lying to Vianne, but the latter does not know it. For her part, Isabelle is working on behalf of the French resistance and must keep her involvement a secret from her loved ones. Yet, Isabelle is saddened that Vianne readily believes the worst of her. Although she cannot tell Vianne the truth, Isabelle would have preferred her sister to doubt her words.
Isabelle's reaction highlights how much she really loves Vianne and how desperate she is for Vianne to think positively of her. The above interaction also emphasizes the sacrifices many French civilians made in resisting the German occupation during WWII. For the purposes of the resistance, Isabelle must forgo a more intimate, affectionate relationship with Vianne.
“Herr Captain?” “We didn’t find the pilot,” he said, downing the second drink, pouring a third.
“These Gestapo.” He looked at her. “They’ll kill me,” he said quietly.
He lifted the hatch and yelled something. As the door banged open, he stood up, taking aim. Vianne grabbed the shovel and swung it at him with all of her strength. The metal scoop made a sickening thunk as it hit him in the back of the head and sliced deeply into his skull. Blood spurted down the back of his uniform.
In the above quote, Vianne uses a shovel to deliver a fatal blow to Captain Beck in order to protect Isabelle (whose alter ego is Juliette Gervaise and her code name the Nightingale). For his part, Captain Beck is shocked by Vianne's betrayal. Before he dies, he makes an unfinished plea to send his regards to his wife and child.
There is a deeper tragedy here, however. During his time in Vianne's home, Beck did everything possible to ensure that Vianne and Sophie (her eight-year-old daughter) did not starve. Despite being a German officer, Beck did not condone the terrible injustices against innocent French minorities. However, because of his uniform, Beck had to follow orders, so as not to endanger his life and that of his own wife and child.
The text tells us that Isabelle also shot Captain Beck. Both sisters must live with the guilt of knowing that they have just killed a decent family man. This important plot development highlights the suffering endured by both German soldiers and French civilians who did not personally support the Nazi regime.
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