All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

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Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel Character Analysis

Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel is a cruel, greedy German military commander, who uses a mixture of torture, sadism, manipulation, and blackmail in order to track down the legendary Sea of Flames—a valuable diamond housed in the Natural History Museum of Paris. Von Rumpel’s desire for the diamond leads him to cross paths with Marie-Laure and Werner Pfennig in Saint-Malo, and in the end we see that he’s willing to commit murder to get what he wants. Nevertheless, von Rumpel isn’t entirely an unsympathetic character: we come to see that he’s dying of cancer, and wants the diamond in order to save his own life.

Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel Quotes in All the Light We Cannot See

The All the Light We Cannot See quotes below are all either spoken by Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel or refer to Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel . 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.
Ten (12 August 1944): Comrades Quotes

“The cease-fire is scheduled for noon, or so they say,” von Rumpel says in an empty voice. “No need to rush. Plenty of time.” He jogs the fingers of one hand down a miniature street. “We want the same thing, you and I, Private. But only one of us can have it. And only I know where it is. Which presents a problem for you. Is it here or here or here or here?”

Related Characters: Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel (speaker), Werner Pfennig
Related Symbols: The Sea of Flames
Page Number: 464
Explanation and Analysis:

In this climactic scene, the villainous von Rumpel surprises Werner Pfennig inside Etienne's house. Von Rumpel has come to the house to find the famous jewel, the Sea of Flames, that's supposedly hidden somewhere inside. Although Werner has only come to the house to save Marie-Laure's life, von Rumpel naturally assumes that he's looking for the jewel, too.

The contrast between von Rumpel and Werner in this scene--the former a parody of Fascist greed, the latter a heroic individual, endangering his life to save Marie-Laure's--makes it clear how much Werner has changed since arriving in France. For a long time, Werner appeared to be headed down the path of corruption: he seemed to be enjoying being a Nazi, are at least felt that he has "surrendered" his will to the cause. But recently, Werner has remembered his youthful innocence--a mental transformation caused when he rediscovers the radio broadcasts he listened to as a child. Reminded of a time in his life when he was neither a soldier nor a murderer, he summons the courage to protect other people.

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Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel Character Timeline in All the Light We Cannot See

The timeline below shows where the character Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel appears in All the Light We Cannot See. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Three (June 1940): Vienna
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
The chapter opens with Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel , a middle-aged soldier. Rumpel is a talented jeweler as well as an official in... (full context)
Three (June 1940): Museum
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel rises early and goes to his first assignment of the day. In Paris, he’s been... (full context)
Four (8 August 1944): The Fort of La Cité
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
In 1944 again, Sergeant Major von Rumpel surveys the city of Saint-Malo with binoculars. Most of the city has been destroyed by... (full context)
Four (8 August 1944): Number 4 rue Vauborel
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
It is six in the evening, the day after the bombing. Sergeant Major von Rumpel slowly walks toward Etienne LeBlanc’s house, noticing the ruins of the buildings around him. As... (full context)
Five (January 1941): Lapidary
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
For three months, Sergeant Major von Rumpel has traveled through Berlin and other cities, depositing gems and jewels from other nations. He... (full context)
Five (January 1941): Diagnosis
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Sergeant Major von Rumpel pays a visit to the doctor. Although von Rumpel has been successful in tracking down... (full context)
Five (January 1941): Treatments
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
Von Rumpel has discovered that he has a tumor, probably brought on by his exposure to mustard... (full context)
Six (8 August 1944): Sixth-floor Bedroom
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
Von Rumpel has entered Etienne’s house. He looks through the rooms, hoping to find a dollhouse, which... (full context)
Seven (August 1942): Stones
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Sergeant Major von Rumpel , still suffering from his tumor treatments, is summoned to a warehouse in Lodz. There,... (full context)
Seven (August 1942): Loudenvielle
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Sergeant Major von Rumpel makes his way to Paris. A man has been arrested for stealing from the Natural... (full context)
Seven (August 1942): The Third Stone
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
In Amiens, von Rumpel tracks down a third stone that looks like the Sea of Flames. To his dismay,... (full context)
Seven (August 1942): Rue des Patriarches
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Von Rumpel tries to track down the designer of the safe from the Natural History Museum. He... (full context)
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
Von Rumpel inspects the large model of Paris he sees in the middle of Daniel’s apartment. As... (full context)
Eight (9 August 1944): Delirium
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Von Rumpel stands in Etienne’s house. He’s been taking morphine for his pain, and wonders if his... (full context)
Nine (May 1944): Numbers
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Von Rumpel goes to see a doctor, who tells him that his throat tumor has grown so... (full context)
Nine (May 1944): Big Claude
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
...as an informer—he talks to the Germans, and is rewarded with food and money. When von Rumpel arrives in Saint-Malo, looking for Daniel LeBlanc, he talks to Claude. Claude points von Rumpel... (full context)
Ten (12 August 1944): Visitor
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
Von Rumpel sits in the kitchen of Etienne’s house. He’s been here for four days, trying to... (full context)
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Suddenly, von Rumpel hears a shout. It is a German soldier, who explains that the Germans are evacuating... (full context)
Ten (12 August 1944): Music #3
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
Von Rumpel sits in Etienne’s house, thinking about his own two children. He thinks about his daughter,... (full context)
Ten (12 August 1944): Wardrobe
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
Von Rumpel has walked up to the sixth floor, where he hears the sound of the radio.... (full context)
Ten (12 August 1944): Comrades
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
...floor, he’s astounded to find a German officer in field dress: a sergeant major ( von Rumpel ). The sergeant major, who seems a little drunk, mutters, “Don’t mix morphine and wine.”... (full context)
Ten (12 August 1944): The Simultaneity of Instants
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
...he and Marie-Laure survive this day, they’ll move to the rainforests. Three hundred miles away, von Rumpel ’s wife is going to Mass with her two young daughters. (full context)