All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

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An intelligent, shy student at the National Institute, who befriends Werner Pfennig. Frederick is an avid scholar of birds, and idolizes Audubon, the great American naturalist. When he begins to fall behind in his studies and athletic performances, Frederick is increasingly bullied by the students and teachers, and Werner begins to distance himself him Frederick. Eventually, Frederick is beaten by the other students—so savagely that he loses his long-term memory, and spends the rest of his life as an invalid—something that inspires tremendous guilt in Werner.

Frederick Quotes in All the Light We Cannot See

The All the Light We Cannot See quotes below are all either spoken by Frederick or refer to Frederick . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Fourth Estate edition of All the Light We Cannot See published in 2015.
Five (January 1941): January Recess Quotes

“Your problem, Werner,” says Frederick, “is that you still believe you own your life.”

Related Characters: Frederick (speaker), Werner Pfennig
Page Number: 223
Explanation and Analysis:

Werner's friend Frederick, a fellow student at the Nazi military academy, has a conversation with Werner. Werner tells Frederick that he has ambitions of becoming a great scientist or engineer. Frederick's sad reply, quoted here, suggests that Werner is too willing to believe in his own individual freedom and agency. Werner, we've already seen, believes that he'll be allowed to use his military training and engineering skills for his own ends. Nevertheless, as we've already seen (in the scenes set in 1944), the opposite is true: Werner will be forced to use his abilities for other people's ends: most of all, Hitler's.

Frederick's words in this quotation are supposed to remind us of the speech that Werner's sister Jutta gave him before he left for military school. Just as Jutta accused Werner of lying to himself, Frederick calls out Werner's delusions of control and freedom. Werner is more willing than his peers to believe that he's headed for a bright future, because he's the very image of an Aryan: light blond hair and blue eyes. Frederick, a bespectacled, nerdy boy, isn't so naive about the Nazi regime: he knows that everyone is a slave to Hitler and his Fascist regime.

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Five (January 1941): Prisoner Quotes

Bastian steps forward. His face flares scarlet in the cold. “Give him another.”
Again Frederick sloshes it onto the ice at his feet. He says in a small voice, “He is already finished, sir.”
The upperclassman hands over a third pail. “Throw it,” commands Bastian. The night steams, the stars burn, the prisoner sways, the boys watch, the commandant tilts his head. Frederick pours the water onto the ground. “I will not.”

Related Characters: Frederick (speaker), Bastian (speaker)
Page Number: 229
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Frederick and his peers at the Nazi military academy are asked to torture a prisoner. One by one, the boys are ordered to empty a bucket of cold water on the prisoner's shivering, frail body. Each boy--including Werner--follows orders. but when it's time for Frederick to comply, he refuses, dumping his water on the ground.

Frederick's behavior is remarkable because it's one of the few times in the entire novel that a potential Nazi student refuses an order. Sociologists have written thousands of pages on what it must have been like to live in Germany during the 1940s: peer pressure and the fear of disobedience led millions of "normal" Germans to commit or sanction atrocious crimes. But Frederick's actions prove that it was possible for normal, everyday people to exercise their own moral values rather than complying with orders—but only if they were willing to deal with the consequences. As we'll see, soon after this Frederick is beaten to the point that he loses his sanity.

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Frederick Character Timeline in All the Light We Cannot See

The timeline below shows where the character Frederick appears in All the Light We Cannot See. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Three (June 1940): Jungmänner
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...next two years. Werner, still fourteen years old, makes friends with a bookish boy named Frederick who likes animals. (full context)
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
In class, Werner and Frederick study biology, and learn from an old “scientist” who tells them about the German’s superiority... (full context)
Three (June 1940): Letters #2-4: Werner to Jutta
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Frederick, Werner reports, thinks that this story is—but the rest of the sentence is blacked out.... (full context)
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...English channel and conquer Britain. In the meantime, Werner takes pleasure in spending time with Frederick, who entertains him by pointing out the different types of birds in the fields. (full context)
Three (June 1940): Blackbirds
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...just think about the science, not the practical purpose. Werner, who’s stayed close friends with Frederick, notices that Frederick is falling behind in his studies and his training. Werner helps Frederick... (full context)
Three (June 1940): Weakest (#2)
Family Theme Icon
...to point to the weakest boy in the group. To Werner’s horror, Helmut points to Frederick. Bastian orders Frederick to run, just as Ernst did—the other boys will have to catch... (full context)
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Bastian demands that Frederick prove that he’s not the weakest. He orders Helmut to beat Frederick with a heavy... (full context)
Five (January 1941): January Recess
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
In January of 1941, Frederick invites Werner to travel to Berlin with him and meet Frederick’s family. Frederick has been... (full context)
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
Werner and Frederick travel to Berlin by train. In the city, Frederick takes Werner to his home, which... (full context)
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
In the evening, Werner meets Frederick’s mother and father. More guests come by the house, and everyone has a lavish dinner.... (full context)
Five (January 1941): Prisoner
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
...prisoner when it’s his turn, even though the man looks pathetic and harmless. When it’s Frederick’s turn, however, he pours his bucket of water on the ground. Bastian, furious, tells Frederick... (full context)
Five (January 1941): Entropy
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...Institute, the prisoner’s body is kept outside for a week. Over the next few days, Frederick is picked again and again as the weakest soldier, and each time, he’s forced to... (full context)
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
In the coming weeks, the students bully Frederick by leaving dead animals in his bed and pushing him around. Werner tries to look... (full context)
Five (January 1941): You Have Other Friends
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
The boys in the National Institute bully Frederick horribly. Werner alone looks out for his friend, helping him whenever he can. Late at... (full context)
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
One day Werner asks Frederick why he doesn’t just leave the National Institute and return to Berlin. Frederick replies, a... (full context)
Five (January 1941): Weakest (#3)
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
One day in April, Werner wakes up to find that Frederick is not in his bunk. He’s told that the previous night, some of the boys... (full context)
Five (January 1941): Letter #9: Werner to Jutta
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...it is blacked out). He says that life is very difficult for him. He mentions Frederick, who once said there is no such thing as free will. He says, “My mistake... (full context)
Five (January 1941): Frederick
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...a trip to Berlin, using the last of his savings. In Berlin, he goes to Frederick’s house, and meets Frederick’s mother for the first time in nearly a year. Frederick’s mother... (full context)
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
Werner goes to see Frederick, who is sitting in bed, being fed his meal. Frederick seems only dimly aware of... (full context)
Ten (12 August 1944): Final Sentence
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...chamber. Werner realizes that he’s looking at Frau Schwartzenberger, the Jewish woman who lived in Frederick’s building. Werner has the sense that he’s sinking into the ground, being swallowed up by... (full context)
Ten (12 August 1944): Birds of America
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...part of the house, Werner finds a copy of Birds of America, a book that Frederick adored. (full context)
Twelve (1974): Frederick
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
The narrator describes Frederick—he’s currently living with his mother outside West Berlin. Frederick spends his days making strange drawings... (full context)
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
One day, Frederick receives a letter. The letter has been sent by “a woman from Essen” (whom we... (full context)