All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

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All the Light We Cannot See One (1934): Herr Siedler Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One evening, a lance corporal wearing a swastika arrives at Werner’s orphanage. As the corporal walks through the building, Werner feels a rush of fear and thinks about his secret radio, which he’s used to listen to foreign broadcasts. To his surprise, the lance corporal and Frau Elena come to Werner. The soldier explains that his superior officer has a radio that needs quick repair. Werner agrees to help the lance corporal repair his machine, and the man takes Werner to his military base, near the orphanage but past the mines. In the base, the corporal introduces Werner to Rudolph Siedler, the owner of the damaged radio. Siedler lives in a luxurious house, and Werner is awed by his surroundings. Siedler shows Werner the radio, and adds that he’s heard good things about Werner’s talents. Werner nervously studies the radio for a few minutes, and then repairs it quickly and efficiently.
In this section, we can sense that Werner’s intelligence and skill is going to pay off, though we’re not sure exactly how. Werner had thought that he’d have to spent the rest of his life working in the mines, but here it seems that he’ll have the opportunity of using his training as a radio repairman to impress important people and climb the ladder of success. The luxury in which Siedler lives is already indicative of corruption in the Nazi way of governing—those with authority can take whatever they want with impunity, leaving others (like Werner and the orphans) with nothing.
Themes
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
Herr Siedler is impressed with Werner’s quick thinking and obvious intelligence. He offers Werner a piece of delicious cake, which Werner eagerly accepts. As Werner eats, Siedler suggests that Werner is talented enough to come work in Berlin as a scientist—maybe even a rocket scientist. Siedler assures Werner that he’s going to recommend Werner for recruitment to a prestigious science school in Berlin. He also gives Werner money for repairing his radio.
Siedler is going to enable Werner to continue his studies of science and mathematics—but he’s also going to push Werner further into the Nazi establishment. This is a risky proposition: Werner will get to escape the mines and continue studying what he loves, but he’ll have to make difficult decisions about Fascism and his loyalties to the Nazi state.
Themes
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
Werner returns to the orphanage. He explains that he fixed the commander’s radio, but doesn’t add anything about the science school. He gives Frau Elena all of the money Siedler gave him. Elena is surprised, and gives most of it back to Werner. Werner goes to bed, still dizzied by the events of the day. Before he falls asleep, however, he finds his radio and crushes it with a brick.
This day has been a milestone in Werner’s life—the end of an era. The destruction of the radio—a symbol of Werner’s life growing up—reinforces this fact. Werner has now had a glimpse of the wider world and the strength of the Nazis. He destroys the radio both because he is now ambitious for bigger and better things (like Siedler’s magnificent radio,) but also because he fears being “subordinate” to German authority by listening to foreign stations.
Themes
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