Sarah's Key Questions and Answers

Tatiana de Rosnay

Read real teacher answers to our most interesting Sarah's Key questions.

What is the significance of the two cupboards?

In the first chapters of this novel, the cupboard of Sarah's story has its opposing parallel in Julia's. In Sarah's story, the cupboard is actual one; built into the wall, its opening well-concealed as part of the paneling, the cupboard has served Sarah and her brother Michael as a play place where they have hidden from knowing parents, played games, read books, and even slept. In Julia's story, the "cupboard" is her womb where the baby she and Bertrand have conceived lies. When Sarah hides Michael in their cupboard to keep him safe from the police, Michael feels no fear. This is a familiar place, comfortable to him both physically and psychologically. He is trusting that his sister will return for him shortly, and he settles in with his stuffed Teddy and falls asleep. For the baby Julia is carrying, however, the 'cupboard,' is initially a place of insecurity and uncertainty. Most research shows that a pregnant mother's emotions are felt on some level by the baby she carries. Bertrand is annoyed that Julia is pregnant and demands that she abort the baby. Julia is 45 years old, and carrying a baby to term at that age can have complications. In addition, she wonders if she wants to take on that responsibility. It is probable that the baby feels her mother's anxiety, so for a time, the womb is not a safe place. Julia eventually decides she will keep the baby, which turns her womb, the 'cupboard,' into a place where the baby is safe and cared for. As the story progresses, we see a dark and opposite turn for Michael; the cupboard is no longer a safe place and becomes instead a death trap. Michael is unable to leave the space, and Sarah is unable to return in time to save him. Michael, denied the chance to grow up, dies locked in a place that was meant to keep him safe. In Julia's story, however, the baby, whom she names Sarah, is safely carried to term in her 'cupboard' and in proper time, in brought out into the world to grow up.