“To What Degree Can and Individual’s Choices and Actions Influence the Direction of His or Her Life?”

Individuals have full control of the decisions they make and the actions they take. The kinds of decisions made and actions are taken have a significant impact on the overall outcome of a person’s life, which often changes his or her life course. The novel All the Light We Cannot See by John Doerr introduces thought-provoking situations in which various people’s decisions and behavior will change the course of one’s life. One major character – Werner Pfennig – struggle to make the right choices and take the right actions in numerous scenarios amounting to positive outcomes in some cases, and negative consequences for others. While the actions and choices that individuals make can influence the direction of their lives; through them, an individual transforms.

Actions and decisions make it necessary for one to take actions. Werner is introduced as a young boy, intelligent and a protagonist of the story. He has a stronger moral compass and does not have the sense of racial superiority like the other boys his age. Werner becomes a prodigy in the wireless radio, where his talent is captured, and he gets the chance to join Hitler Youth Academy. Since he had longed to leave the orphanage and the expected life of the mine field, he takes this opportunity with open arms. Werner was not particularly influenced by the Nazis propaganda that he was forced to listen, but rather naïve about his would-be contribution to the War. He was still young and oblivious to the looming war. His young sister, Jutta, knew that Werner was a good person, and felt betrayed when he abandoned her for the Nazis course. Even with his charisma and open view of the world, Werner choice is necessitated by the circumstance he is in, and he wanted to escape the kind of life.

His decision to join the school would later present him with scenarios that would change the direction in life. His community was happy for him for volunteering to serve the nation; and in that he did with dignity. As Doerr articulates, “Werner is succeeding. He is being loyal. He is what everybody agrees is good” (Doerr, Anthony, 250). With that, Werner strives to be what society wants him to be; and thus the direction his life takes is the one praised by society. During his time in school, they were taken through rigorous, and barbaric exercises. For example, they were told to pour cold water to a prisoner until he died. During his mission locating frequencies, he makes a mistake that leads to the destruction of an innocent family: an Austrian girl and her mother. Such circumstances opened his eyes to the ills of his action and that of the Nazis. Such actions traumatize him and open his heart the next time he got confronted by the innocence of Marie-Laure. The author says that “… and yet when he wakes and buttons his tunic, he feels he is betraying something” (Doerr, Anthony, 250). The choices he made no longer seen worthy, and his experiences contribute to his transformation to maturity and hate for war.

Actions lead to experiences that make one questions their course and direction in life. As evidence indicates in the novel, Werner’s sister Jutta is critical of how Werner behaves and acts according to what society wants, and not making choices that he thinks are right. She asks Werner, “is it right to do something only because everyone else is doing it?” (Doerr, Anthony, 133). Through reflection of his life and his contribution to the war, he feels that he is not doing the right thing. During much of his time, both in school and at the Nazis war front, he ponders upon that question in eternity. During the mission to locate Etienne’s broadcast in Saint-Malo, they are hit by the Allies bomb and trapped for days, during which he reflect about his life. Later on, we see that he decides to take action stop his contributions for the Nazis. He tells his sister, “Jutta… I finally listened” (Doerr, Anthony, 475). With this, the direction of his life changes drastically, and after meeting Marie-Laure, he turns his back on the sergeant’s course and saves her. His previous actions haunted him, and thus he transforms him into a different person; a person who cares about the welfare of the innocent, and who feels that his contribution to the war was hurting him as well as other people.

After one learns about the consequences of his action, he has transformed into a different person altogether and sees the world in a different perspective. During the bombing in the Saint-Malo and the death of his colleague. After days, trapped underground, he thinks of it as a punishment for his contributions to the death of thousands of civilians. He feels bad about himself and misses his sister Jutta. More significantly though is that, when Werner meets Marie-Laurie, he feels compelled to save her life. For the first time, he gets someone that shared the same view of life. At one instance, in the attic, he and Marie-Laurie, shared a peach and discussed the book, “Twenty Seven Thousand Leagues of the Sea.” He was no longer a numb soldier and longed to escape with Marie-Laurie to a place without war. Doerr says, “He would walk anywhere to make it happen, to bear anything, in a year or three years or ten, France and Germany would no mean what they meant now (Doerr, Anthony, 473).” He longed for a place with “a comfortable kind of silence lovers are supposed to share (Doerr, Anthony, 473)”. Werner transforms into a better person, with feelings for humanity, and cares for someone; shedding the previous numbness.

The choices and actions an individual takes changes the direction of that person’s life. Through a series of actions and several decisions, an individual goes through life experiences that transform him into a different person. In the novel, Werner, a charming boy with an affinity for radio, makes a decision to join the Nazis school to escape the life of the mines. With his young age, he is unaware of the predicaments his decision would land him in life. During his time in school and the war front, the experiences numb his feelings. But actions like killing innocent civilians and his connection to Marie-Laurie turn transform him into a person who cares. He started hating the war, and everything related to it; wishing to run away to a peaceful country. The actions and choices a person makes determine his direction in life, and it changes with every action and choice. With such power, there is no reason one should ever make decisions or actions just because everyone else is doing it.

Work Cited

Doerr, Anthony. All The Light We Cannot See. 1st ed., New York, Scribner, 2014.

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