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Revision: Le Silence De La Mer

If you, too, are on the super fun journey that is French A levels, you’re probably also asking the same questions. Why did I take French? How am I going to pass? And, most frustratingly, why are there next to no Le Silence De La Mer resources anywhere?

You’re not alone.

Below are all my study notes for Le Silence De La Mer. If you have any, please comment below.


Plot

The book opens with a few German soldiers arriving to prepare the house. They speak in “what they think is French”, break part of the Uncle’s workbench, and even sleep in the stable. These are the Germans that we have to compare Werner to, and are probably more like the Germans that the intended audience would have met.

When Werner arrives, one of the first things that he does is apologise. This shows that he understands and feels remorse for taking over their house. We later find that he believes that it is worth it, to unite the countries, and will be better in the long run.

Neither the niece nor the uncle respond to him, although the uncle says that he finds the silence uncomfortable.

Werner limps upstairs. His limp is a sign of weakness, just like his love for France. The uncle, however, says that he seems acceptable.

The next morning, Werner comes downstairs for small talk. He compliments their home, but his eyes are constantly drawn to the niece. He also tells them that he doesn’t wish to bother them, and so they can lock the front door and he’ll use the back. However, they never do, which can be interpreted as either affection for Werner or a refusal to allow their lives to be at all impacted by him.

For the next month, they continue to be silent. Werner wishes them goodnight every night, and not much else.

One evening, he knocks on the living room door while they’re in there. He appears in plain clothes, and proceeds to speak to them, explaining that he has always loved France and its culture, but he also believes that good things will come from the war. He wishes to unite the two countries.

From then on, Werner doesn’t come every evening, but when he does, he talks about French culture and his hopes for their future. He compares France and Germany to Beauty and the Beast, believing that they will eventually grow to love eachother.

One night, he talks about his ex-girlfriend from Germany, who he was going to marry. However, while on a picnic, she was stung by a mosquito, and to punish it, she tore off all its legs.

Werner has to go to Paris for a few days. When he returns, the family don’t see him for a while.

The Uncle bumps into him at the Kommandateur, where he briefly waves but doesn’t speak.

Eventually, he reappears at the living room door. He knocks again, but doesn’t immediately enter. They realise that he is going to leave, and so the uncle tells him to enter.

This time, Werner wears his uniform, as a reminder of their opposing sides in the war. He tells the family that, while in Paris, the other Germans, including an old friend, laughed at his opinion on France, and he realised that they want France to suffer.

Despite this realisation, Werner explains that he has a duty to his country. His love for France means that he can’t continue to destroy it, and so he says that he’s being sent to the front lines of a mission that will probably fail.

Before he leaves, he says goodbye, and the niece says it back quietly.


Themes

An important theme of the novel is conflict. Obviously, it is set in a world surrounded by the Second World War, but each character also has internal conflicts. The family are torn between their faith to their country and their feelings for Ebrennac, whereas Ebrennac himself is torn between his ideals and those of the Nazis.

Love is also significant, in two forms: Romantic love, and patriotic love for ones country.

Hatred can also be seen in the niece’s initial reaction to Werner, and also the attitude of the Germans towards France.


Characters

The Uncle

We see the entire story through the eyes of the Uncle. Even though he speaks very few words, we are able to see his opinions through his narration.

He seems less against Ebrennac than his niece, and warms to him quite early on. Despite this, he continues to resist, lead by his niece.

Werner Von Ebrennac

Ebrennac is the German officer that occupies the house. He defies stereotypes by being polite, warm and loving France.

Although Werner has a sincere interest in French culture, Werner is German before all else. He can’t turn his back in his homeland, even when he realises that the other Germans want to damage France.

The Niece

As all women of the time were, the niece is financially dependent on the men in her life. While we aren’t told why she lives with her Uncle, she is confined to domestic tasks such as sewing, knitting and playing piano.

She is quite cold throughout the book, due to her resistance, which contrasts with Ebrennac.

Despite her lack of dialogue, the reader is aware that she has feelings for Werner. However, she continues to choose her loyalty to her country over this relationship.

The ex-girlfriend

Although she doesn’t actually appear in the house, Werner’s ex girlfriend is a significant character in the book. She is cited as the reason that he doesn’t like German girls.

She doesn’t just kill the mosquito that stings her, she picks each leg off individually, showing a cruelty that is reflected in the way the other German soldiers behave.


Social-Historical Context

The book was written as propoganda for the resistance.

Vercors aimed to show the audience that passive resistance has its power, and encourage France to resist.

He also appears to criticise the war itself, portraying Werner as naive and misguided.


You can find Past Paper questions linked here.

I also made a revision course on Memrise with all the key vocab.

Good luck!

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