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Summary of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doeer

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All the light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, chronicles the lives and relationship between Marie and Werner, two children who grew up in France and Germany. The society around them forces discriminatory ideals that cloud their perception of the world, but they find its meaning through their own self-definition. In this, they are both guided by a single radio and the message and legacy that it contains. Throughout the book, the author isolated the two characters, but also created subtle connections between the two. The most important of which would be the radio

It created a bond between the two where they learned from each other’s experiences and struggles.

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The definition of surviving varies with each relationship, from Marie-Laure to Frederick. Family is a long lasting theme presented in this book, and the importance of family doesn’t alter despite the war. Doerr conveys that war convinces people they should do anything to survive; even if it endangers themselves or goes against their interests. For some people, protecting family is a major part of surviving. When inhabitants of Paris were first told to leave the city, Daniel Leblanc took Marie-Laure and left to go to the safe house of Francois Giannot. When they arrived at the safe house, despite it being destroyed, Daniel Leblanc had the determination to go to Saint Malo to protect Marie-Laure. He carried on despite limited amounts of rations and energy that remained

Again he carries his daughter. One more half mile. The windows of the house stay unlit as they approach. Its barn sits a hundred yards beyond. He tries to listen above the rush of blood in his ears. No dogs, no torches. This quote uses imagery to paint a picture of the path Daniel Leblanc was taking to survive. He was willing to do anything that would help him and Marie-Laure survive, no matter the cost. Werner and Jutta were curious kids whose worlds were lit up when they tuned into stations on the radio. They spent most of their time at night modifying the radio or listening to science broadcasts. Werner especially loved the radio because he could listen to science broadcasts, which gave him a sense of happiness, despite the morbid circumstances he was in. When reports spread that listening to certain broadcasts from foreign nations would endanger Jutta, Werner suddenly had thoughts about crushing the radio. Werner didn’t want to destroythe radio, but Jutta had began to listen to broadcasts from Paris. What are you listening to? She crosses her arm and puts the earphone back and does not answer. Are you listening to something you’re not supposed to be listening to? What do you care It’s dangerous, is why I care. When Werner walks in one night, Jutta had been listening to a Paris broadcast, and overheard that Germans were bombing the city of Paris. This quote shows his genuine caring for Jutta, which eventually led to Werner destroying the radio. He wanted to protect Jutta, even if by destroying the radio he was destroying a part of himself. And yet at other times, despite his ambitions, he is visited by instants of vertigo; he sees Jutta holding the smashed pieces of their radio and feels uncertainty steal into his gut.

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In fact, as Werner’s conversation with Marie-Laure shows, All the Light We Cannot See calls attention to the shared humanity that bridges our differences and the artificiality of dividing lines between “good guys” and “bad guys.” One of Werner’s fellow soldiers calls attention to the artificiality of ethnic division when he jokes, “The true Aryan is as blond as Hitler, as slim as Göring, and as tall as Goebbels,” citing examples of leading Nazi figures who did not fit the Aryan stereotype

Marie-Laure and Werner’s bond is perhaps the best example of common humanity. Even though they are strangers on opposite sides of the war effort, they are kindred spirits nonetheless.

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