For the majority of All the Light We Cannot See, the only connection between the two major storylines (that of Marie-Laure and that of Werner) is the radio that Werner owns as a child. As the story goes on, we realize that Werner’s favorite broadcast is being narrated by Marie-Laure’s own grandfather, Henri LeBlanc. When Marie-Laure and Werner finally meet in the last 100 pages of the book, it’s partially Werner’s memories of the radio broadcast that impel him to save Marie-Laure’s life and guide her to safety. In a sense, the radio as a symbol is then a kind of “flip side” of vision as a symbol. In the absence of “vision”—that is, perfect knowledge of each other and ourselves—we must depend upon unpredictable, unstable, and tenuous ways of forming connections with other people.
Radio is a kind of tentative reaching out to others—there is a speaker, but the existence of a listener is always in question. Etienne is a recluse and afraid to leave the house, but he still finds a connection to the outside world through his radio—both listening and broadcasting. Likewise Marie-Laure, trapped in the attic, sends out broadcasts of herself reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, hoping to comfort, entertain, or connect with someone, but she wonders if anyone is listening or cares. And yet Werner is listening, just as he listened to Marie-Laure’s grandfather years before—and these fragile connections lead to something much more real, when Werner uses Marie-Laure’s radio broadcasts to find her and save her life. Ultimately, radio is a rather lovely symbol of how vital it is to seek connection with others, and how even the most unstable and fleeting methods of communication can be life-saving in a world of chaos, blindness, and alienation.