All the Light We Can’t See begins in the media res, a Latin term that means “pop” in the center of things. The story blends the depiction of the bombing of Saint-Malo with the protagonists of the stories to depict the city’s chaos and uncertainty when the bombing starts. While Marie-Laure and Werner knew the bombs were arriving, none of them fled the area. They tend to be victims of chance and helpless against the force of war. During this disaster, both Marie-Laure and Werner turned to support their relatives. The author has introduced a number of topics that are explained in this article, as well as literal devices such as symbolism used. Looking at characters, Werner although surrounded by courageous and selfless characters, develops his own morality after experiencing mediocrity, fear, and loss. This paper shall also seek to look into the characters in the narrative.
There are many characters in the novel. Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a curious, adventurous girl who became blind at a young age. She still learns, however, to adapt and continues to explore life. She is loving; she adores her father very much. Marie-Laure is daring and trains herself o walk around town by use of a cane. She, however, is confronted with tragedy as the people she loves disappear. As the story progresses, she desires to connect with her loved ones. Werner Pfennig has a sister named Jutta. He is very intelligent and aspires to be a scientist. He impressed a Nazi official by repairing a radio hence was allowed to attend National Political Institute of Education at Schulpforta. He later joins the military, and his tasks were to locate and destroy illegal radio broadcasts. He later realizes that he is using his knowledge to kill innocent lives. He saves Marie-Laure when he hears her broadcasting. He is caught and made a prisoner but later wanders into minefields and sets off one killing himself.
Frank the Giant Volkheimer is a student at Schulpforta whom Werner meets. Volkheimer is a legend but powerful and brutal. He led anti-radio task force which Werner joins. He encourages Werner to go save Marie-Laure. Daniel LeBlanc is Marie-Laure’s father. He is a Locksmith at a museum before the German rule. He is assigned protection of the Sea of Flames diamond. He is suspected of treason and arrested (Doerr & Hoopla digital 2015). He goes to a German prison and writes letters to his daughter until his demise. Jutta Pfennig is Werner sister. Raised in the orphanage with Werner, she listens to broadcasts from radios that Werner fixes even after they are prohibited. Jutta is suspicious of Nazi agenda and encourages his brother not to go college.
Etienne LeBlanc is Marie-Laure’s great-uncle. Together with his brother Henri, worked together to produce and put on air the science radio programs that Werner and Jutta listened to when young. They were signalmen during the war. Henri died amid the war and Etienne was distressed. He was too afraid to leave his house until Marie-Laure visits him. After the housekeeper, Madame Manec, passes on, together with Marie-Laure, they used a radio transmitter to relay allied intelligence for the French Resistance movement.
Madame Manec is Ettiene housekeeper. She organized women to work for the resistance. Frederick is Werner’s friend in Schulpforta. He is from a rich family. When he refuses to torture a stranger, he received a thorough beating and was sent home with his mind injured permanently.Reinhold von Rumpel is a sergeant major in the German military. He has cancer and hw wants to find the sea of flames thought to give its possessor everlasting life. Dr. Hauptmann is an instructor at Schulpforta. He sees Werner’s skills and lies about Werner’s age so that Werner can be admitted to Wehrmacht.
There are several themes employed in the novel. The first theme is the family. In the story, there is a presence of strong family ties. Werner Pfennig has close relationship with his sister, Jutta Pfennig, same as Marie-Laure is to her father. These very strong ties play a role in character’s life. Deep tragedy seems to display this family ties. Daniel LeBlanc is very close his daughter after his wife passes on. Werner and Jutta strong bond is due to having lost their parent at a young age. Families can be seen to be bringing comfort and solace during adverse times. In the period when nations go to wars and individuals are moved around the continent, family is a significant constant in the lives of the characters (Doerr & Hoopla digital 2015). When Werner gets invested in the evils of Nazi state, he recalls childhood with Jutta where he was happy and stress-free. His love for Jutta is the main reason why he opted to defy his superiors and save Marie-Laure’s life. Marie-Laure immense love for her father motivated her to join French Resistance and fight German military.
Another theme is the Fate, Duty, and Free Will. The novel poses issues on free will, fate and making right decisions. Many characters in the story struggle to make the right choices and are confronted with the possibility that their struggles may not amount to anything i.e. their moral choices do not matter at all (Doerr & Hoopla digital 2015). The queries on free will in the story are signified by a sea of flames, a renowned diamond that purportedly safeguards its owner, however, causes his loved ones to die. It is probable that the sea of flames has been cursed implying that characters efforts to safeguard each other are in vain, they shall die regardless. Again, it is possible that the curse is just a myth and hence one ought to do the right thing to protect his people.
At the beginning of the novel, the key characters, Werner and Marie-Laure think that they can make their own decisions and impact their own destinies. Werner believes that his intelligence and sharp thinking shall save him from his imaginary fate- working in mines. There seems to be a division between free will and fate and the characters are attempting to affirm their free will. As the novel continues, the author brings about the concept of duty. When Werner’s creativity gives him a place in the National Institute, he is coached into Nazi mythology, where he learned that Jews are bad and Hitler is to be obeyed.
Werner wants to air his viewpoints that innocent people should not be hurt however he is afraid. He becomes top caught up in his scientific aspirations to stand up for the right thing. When ordered to torment a prisoner, he agrees because he was eager for a job whereas his companion Fredrick refuses (Doerr & Hoopla digital 2015). Given orders to track down radio broadcaster, he realizes that he actually uses his knowledge to help Nazi kill innocent; however, he is too afraid to leave. He was disgusted by his acts, however, was afraid, he does not want to be free anymore and believes that with no choice, he shall make himself think that he is being coerced into evil. Free will, as he realizes is very painful at times.
Science and Ways of Seeing is another theme in the novel. The characters in the novel tend to perceive the world in a certain way which permits them to make sense of the complex world. In some instances, characters see a world in a certain way to compensate for another. A perfect example is Marie-Laure; she turns to reading and marine biology to compensate for the absence of literal sight. The ways of seeing or the science gives people a sense of confidence and optimism in the early chapters of the story (Doerr & Hoopla digital 2015). By studying math and physics, Werner believes he saves himself from menial labor in the mines. Mauri-Laure also attempts to adapt o her blindness by training herself to be independent, i.e. walking on streets by feeling a scale model of the town, a symbol for all the ways of seeing other than literal sight. The physics and model achieve the same thing; they teach the young, afraid youngsters to face their fears by learning the first scale version of earth and going into the universe itself.
As the novel progresses, it becomes certain that science can be maneuvered and twisted. The Nazi pseudoscience Werner learns in National Institute, where Jews are thought to be inferior to Aryans, serves the same function for the Germany just as physics served for Werner. By ascribing to fallacies of ethnic superiority, the Germans led by Hitler found a digestible worldview and rationalization for their acts. Furthermore, Werner and Marie-Laure realize that even good science- science that is impartial has its constraints (Doerr & Hoopla digital 2015). Werner believes that learning physics and math shall aid in understanding the puzzles of the world; however, it is not so. It did not prepare him for the atrocities of the war he faced. By concentrating purely on science, Werner has blocked himself from seeing the moral violence of Nazi state i.e. one way of seeing hinders another.
The author has managed to employ symbolism in the narrative as he presents the themes. Radio is a huge role in the lives of the two main characters Werner and Marie-Laure. Radio symbolizes a connection of individuals around the world. An illegal radio signifies defiance to oppression. Although German has banned radios, numerous individuals still keep them for communication with their friends with the hope of conquering Nazis. Although Germans occupy France, the illegal radios of French citizens imply that they shall not give up and will try their best to gain their freedom and property.
The Sea of Flames. This diamond gives the owner an everlasting life, however, brings harm to individuals around him. It is a symbol of hope. Even though Von Rumpe has cancer and has few months to live, he believes the diamond shall heal him. He hunts the stone even as cancer progresses and he could not walk. The diamond gives him hope even as he near his death, thinking that he shall find it and live forever. The Wardrobe in Etienne’s room denotes the pathway from the LeBlanc’s public life to their private life. The outer side of the wardrobe is a normal house with nothing suspicious, however, behind it, there is a prohibited radio. The wardrobe shows how individuals remain strong and defy oppression and how even the most unlikely persons can make a difference in adverse times.
The sea. All through the novel, sea signifies a calming, haven where people could break away from the cruel realities of war and enjoy the wonders of nature. Werner and Marie-Laure wish to go to the seaside.As Werner arrives in Saint-Malo, he goes straight to the sea. Although the beach is filled with mines, he enjoys it implying that sea was a safe place. When Marie-Laure arrives in Saint-Malo, she insists on going to the sea. When she goes, she has a good time with no bad lucks.
The author incorporates many facets of literature to bring out the message in the story.
Doerr, A., & Hoopla digital. (2015). Summary and analysis of all the light we cannot see. United States: IDreamBooks Inc.
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