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Free Study Guide for The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

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THE HIDING PLACE LITERATURE NOTES

CHAPTER THREE - Karel

Summary

In this chapter, Corrie related the tale of Karel, the only man she ever considered marrying and whom she lost to another woman. She met him at one of her mother’s “occasions,” parties her mother could organize around any event at any moment. Willem had brought him and introduced Karel as a friend from Leiden, his university. Corrie “took that strong hand, looked up into those deep brown eyes and fell irretrievably in love.” She had accepted for most of her youth that she was never noticed, because Nollie, her sister, was so much prettier. She knew that the boys always fell for the pretty one, but she felt that Karel was different.

Corrie didn’t see Karel again for two years when she and Nollie paid their brother a visit. While they were eating cream buns and drinking coffee in Willem’s dorm room, four of his friends burst in and one of them was Karel. He remembered having met Corrie two years before, but she was too shy to carry on much of a conversation with him, like Nollie could, especially when she wasn’t going to university and would just stay home with her mother and her aunts.

Corrie finished school that spring and took over the management of the ten Boom household, just like it was always planned she would. She was especially needed, because her Tante Bep had developed tuberculosis. Corrie actually loved the work she did, except for the nursing of Tante Bep whose illness and whose disappointing life lay like a shadow over the house. Her mother also became more ill, because her gallstones could no longer be removed since she had a slight stroke. Her pain was sporadic, but also placed stress on their home. As for her feelings about Tante Bep’s sad life, she spoke to her mother about how they might make her days easier and happier. Her mother reminded Corrie that “happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings. It’s something we make inside ourselves.

Eventually, in the next few years, Tante Bep died, and then, Tante Jans developed diabetes. This aunt’s reaction to the diagnosis was to throw herself even more forcefully into writing, speaking, forming clubs, and launching projects. Because it was a time of mobilization for war - 1914 - Tante Jans conceived of the idea of a soldier’s center. Her medication and tests became a financial problem, so Corrie was taught how to run the tests by the doctor’s sister, Tine Van Veen. She became an even greater part of the ten Boom household when she and Willem fell in love and married two months after Willem’s ordination. For Corrie, this was an important event, because Karel would be there, and the five years difference in their ages was no longer significant.


Betsie helped Corrie fix her hair and made her a new silk dress for the wedding and when Karel saw her for the first time, he was speechless. He had remembered her as a little girl with enormous blue eyes, and now she was an attractive young woman.

Not long after the wedding, the test Corrie had been running for Tante Jans turned black, a sign that she hadn’t long to live. In fact, in those days before insulin, the doctor diagnosed her as having three weeks at most. The family went to Tante Jans’ rooms and told her together that she was dying. They also praised all of her accomplishments in her life; however, she burst into tears, because she felt her accomplishments were mere trinkets, and that she would have to face Jesus empty-handed. She died soon after, but not before she had cleaned her desk and left everything she had in order. Corrie watched these events unfold, rooted to the spot in Tante Jans’ room, and realized that she had witnessed a mystery: “it was Father’s train ticket, given at the moment itself.”

Four months later, the family was invited to Willem’s first sermon. In the Dutch Reformed Church, this was one of the most solemn, joyous, and emotional moments an unemotional people could ever conceive. All the way to the church on the train, Corrie’s mother was racked with pain, as her illness was progressing. However, three days after the service, Karel came to Willem’s home and invited Corrie to go for a walk. From then on, each day, it was taken for granted that they would take their walks together. These wonderful moments took place in the midst of the Great War raging around them. Holland was neutral, and so the horrors were not felt personally, but Willem, from his pulpit, reminded his congregation that “no matter which side won, a way of life was gone forever.”

As time went on, Corrie and Karel began to talk not about what he was going to do in the future, but what they were going to do together. The word marriage was never spoken, but she felt as if they were moving towards commitment. One day, Willem and Tine spoke to Corrie about Karel’s intentions. They gently told her that no marriage could ever be made between them, because his family expected him to “marry well.” Corrie would not be a suitable bride to them, and Karel was bound by his family’s desires. Karel left about a week or so later and begged Corrie to write to him. This made her heart soar with hope, and she faithfully wrote to him about everything happening in the Beje, the house he called the “happiest home in Holland.” However, his letters became infrequent, and eventually came not at all. Then, one day, the bell rang and Corrie, who was washing dishes, ran to answer the door. There stood Karel beside a young woman, who he introduced as his fiancée. She must have said something to them and led them to the parlor, but later, she couldn’t remember at all. They stayed for about a half hour, and when it ended and they had been seen to the door, Corrie ran to her room and sobbed out her deep sadness, until later her father entered the room and gave her the way to deal with the pain. He told her that she could do one of two things now that her love for Karel was blocked: she could kill the love to stop the pain even though part of her would die as well; or she could ask God to open up another route for that love to travel. He had given her a secret key that would help her to open other dark rooms she would enter where there was no love at all. So, Corrie gave her love for Karel to God and knew that by doing so she hadn’t given up the joy and wonder that had grown with it. However, she knew there would never be another that she could love so much except God.

Notes

This chapter is a treatise on happiness. Corrie meets the man she thinks she will marry while around her, people she loves are dying. She worries about whether they lived happy lives and learns from her mother that happiness comes from within us. Tante Bep died feeling she had accomplished nothing, and to Corrie, it looks as if she might have been right. Tante Jans, who worked very hard for the things she believed in, died, also believing she had accomplished little and went to Jesus empty-handed. Then, when Corrie loses her love, Karel, because she is not from a high enough social class to marry him, all these thoughts of unhappiness come rushing in on her. The difference between her and her aunts, however, can be summed up as follows: Corrie learns to put herself in God’s hands and allow Him to take her love for Karel even though he can’t. As a result, she finds a way, over the following years, to bring meaning to her life, even though she had faced the worst disappointment she would ever face.

 


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