The Hiding Place

The Hiding Place Summary and Analysis of Chapter 3: Karel


Corrie skips forward several years to describe the first time she meets Karel, who is a friend of Willem’s at university. At fourteen, Corrie falls hopelessly in love with him, although she realizes that she has neither Nollie’s social graces nor beauty. While Nollie continues to break hearts in her school, Corrie remains unnoticed. Two years later, in the winter of 1908, Corrie and Nollie pay a visit to Willem who studies at the university in Leiden. Although Willem’s apartment is sparsely furnished, he buys the girls a special snack. Unfortunately, Corrie still has the remains of the cream bun in her mouth, preventing her from greeting Karel properly when he and some others enter the room. In part due to her days at the teacher training school, Nollie is able to participate in the lively conversation, leaving Corrie silent and awkward. When Karel asks her if she intends to be a teacher, Corrie answers that she plans to remain at home.

In the spring, Corrie graduates and takes over the household work, which increases when Tante Bep is diagnosed with tuberculosis, a generally incurable disease. Corries pities Bep because she worked as a governess her entire life, moving from family to family and complaining the whole time. To add to the family’s misfortunes, Corrie’s mother suffers a stroke and can no longer receive operations for her painful gallstones. Nevertheless, Mama ten Boom continues to send out baby clothes and write notes of encouragement to shut-ins in Haarlem. When Corrie asks if they can make Bep happier by sending her to her last family, her mother replies that Bep has been equally miserable wherever she is. She shares a lesson with Corrie: happiness depends on an individual’s mindset rather than outward circumstances.

After Bep’s death, the family gets a new doctor and nurse, Jan van Veen and his daughter Tine. In addition to introducing modern medical tools, this doctor diagnoses Tante Jans with diabetes, a death sentence back then. To distract herself, Jans throws herself into work with renewed vigor and attempts to open a soldier’s center in the city, as Holland mobilizes for war in 1914. Imperious as ever, Jans continues to take the trolley, which is electric instead of horse-drawn now. In order to save money, Corrie learns how to take weekly blood sugar tests, looking for clear rather than black liquid.

That spring, Willem returns home for a holiday before ordination from the theological school in a few months. At a family dinner, the doctor’s daughter, Tine, arrives at the Beje with a bouquet of daffodils for Mama ten Boom. Corrie decides that Willem and Tine must meet, and just as she anticipated Tine and Willem fall in love. A few months later, the couple marries and Corrie sees Karel again at the wedding. He remarks that she has grown into a lovely young lady, making Corrie fall more in love.

One rainy Friday morning in January, Corrie tests Jans blood sugar and finds the fatal black liquid. After Corrie tells the family, they assemble to break the news to Bep. Father ten Boom tells Jans that she must embark on a joyous journey, but because of her writing, clubs and fundraising, she does not have to go empty-handed to God. Jans begins to cry, saying that we cannot bring anything and must come to God empty-handed because he took care of everything on the cross. Corrie remembers her father’s train ticket lesson as the family embraces Jans.

Four months after Jans’s funeral, the family travels to beautiful, rural Brabant, where Willem will deliver his first sermon in his first church. During this time, Corries takes daily walks with Karel and the two talk about their future house and children. Willem and Tine are at pains to tell Corrie that Karel is not serious about her because his family expects him to marry something wealthy. She does not believe them and when Karel asks her to write about life in the Beje she happily agrees. After months of writing letters and receiving fewer and fewer returns, Corrie is devastated when Karel arrives with his new fianceé. The family keeps the couple busy so Corrie can recover from the shock. Later as she sobs alone in her room, Corrie’s father gives her some advice. He tells her that blocked love produces pain and she has a choice to make. She can kill that love or give that love back to God. Corrie chooses the second, praying fervently for God to help her love Karel in God’s perfect way before falling asleep.


In chapter three, Corrie explains one of her greatest disappointments and greatest lessons. Corrie falls in love with Karel whose parents want him to marry a rich and well-connected woman. Corrie switches back and forth between wistful daydreaming about Karel and her serious responsibilities. Similarly, the setting alternates between beautiful gardens and dark rooms in the Beje with ailing relatives. The alternating setting and tone convey a sense of adolescence and its highs and lows. The conflict occurs when Corrie fails to reconcile her dreams of love with the financial and social reality of her world. Nevertheless, Corrie survives her experience of heartbreak and matures into a conscientious and compassionate adult.

Although it is the twentieth century when Corrie falls in love with Karel, she must abide by strict cultural standards for women. When Corrie spends several afternoons alone with Karel, Willem and Tine worry for her reputation. Because Karel must marry for money rather than love, his actions to Corrie can only be regarded as those of a libertine. However, Karel seems to love Corrie, especially when he begs her to write to him.

When Corrie is not pining for Karel, she cares for her family. When Corrie asks her mother if they can help Tante Bep with her unhappiness, she receives an answer, which affects the entire biography. Mama’s remark that happiness depends on attitude rather than circumstance helps Corrie during the darkest moments of her life. Moreover, Corrie learns to care for the weak when she administers the blood sugar test for Tante Jans.

When Tante Jans receives the diagnosis of diabetes, she throws herself into more work. However, she learns that she cannot take these achievements with her when she dies. In this situation, Corrie learns to disregard material possessions and achievements, which do not matter in the long run. In this chapter, Corrie learns to accept that death is a part of living. Although Corrie feels sorrow for her aunts’ passing, she has become stronger since she first encountered mortality.

The death of her aunts teaches Corrie valuable lessons about family and caring for people when they are weak and sick. These misfortunes also indicate the lack of medical awareness and cures in the early twentieth century, especially for people with small financial means. Although Dr. Van Veen gives his best efforts, the medical knowledge in that era was insufficient.

After Karel breaks Corrie’s heart, Corrie learns a valuable lesson. Her father explains that there are many different avenues for love. The experience of unrequited love teaches Corrie to love unconditionally without expectation of return. This practice proves useful for Corrie later, when she faces bitter disappointment and cruelty.