In Au Revoir Les Enfants Does Malle See the Germans in Terms of Black and White?

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Throughout the book “Au Revoir Les Enfants” Louis Malle highlights at several points the typical associations which the majority of people have when discussing the role of the Germans during the war. However Malle approaches the topic from a more complex angle thus forcing the reader to question the general stereotypes and examine the varying attitudes of both the French and Germans, by portraying them in certain situations in which they adopt a sometimes unexpected attitude.

During a scene in the beginning of the book whilst the boys are out in the village they encounter a group of German soldiers, Malle exposes this situation in order to immediately draw attention to the general hostility and fear which is evoked by the Germans.

“Quelques soldats allemands.. les élèves restent debout, intimidés..”

The pupils reaction to the soldiers demonstrates the stereotypes associated with them, feelings of fear and uncertainty.

During the forest scene, where Julien and Jean become lost during a game the author uses the fall of night in order to pre-empt that something bad is going to happen.

“La nuit commence à tomber.”

As Julien and Bonnet begin to panick, and try find their way home the appearance of two German soldiers envokes a sense of danger and terror. When the soldiers discover the two boys, it is the immediate assumption of both the reader and the personnas that they will be cruel and sinister characters. The way Malle describes the boys as being cornered by the two soldiers suggests that they are cold and unthoughtful before they have even acted. The presumption that the soldiers are callous characters is based purely on the stereotype of Germans during the war.

“Julien et Bonnet sont coinces entre deux soldats..”

However, as the scene unravels we discover a different side to the two German soldiers, when they take Julien and Bonnet in their car to return them to the school they cover them with a blanket which demonstrates compassion and...
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