All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in All the Light We Cannot See, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The vast majority of All the Light We Cannot See takes place during World War II. Although the novel itself covers many of the major European events of the era—the Holocaust, the Russian sieges, the invasion of Paris, the Allied invasion of France, etc.—Doerr doesn’t do much summarizing, and he assumes that his readers have a certain amount of knowledge of World War II. With this in mind, it’s important to consider more details about…

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All the Light We Cannot See is written in an unusual style. The novel consists of almost two hundred chapters (no more than two or three pages each), narrated in the present tense, usually from the perspectives of Werner Pfennig, a German boy, or Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a French girl. For the majority of the book, these two plots aren’t connected in any strong way—it’s only toward the end that Werner and Marie-Laure meet…

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All the Light We Cannot See poses difficult questions about fate, free will, and making the right choice. The major characters in the novel usually struggle to do the right thing, but they must also face the possibility that their struggles don’t amount to anything—in other words, their moral choices ultimately don’t matter at all. The questions of free will in the novel are aptly symbolized by the Sea of Flames, a legendary diamond…

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One of the key similarities between the two plots in All the Light We Cannot See is the existence of an exceptionally strong, loving family relationship. Werner Pfennig is extremely close with his sister, Jutta Pfennig, just as Marie-Laure LeBlanc is extremely close with her father, Daniel LeBlanc. In the novel, these family ties are different from other kinds of relationships, and they play unique roles in the characters’ lives.

In the case…

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All the important characters in All the Light We Cannot See are invested in a certain “way of seeing”—a worldview that allows them to make sense of the complex world. Sometimes, a character chooses one way of seeing in order to compensate for not having access to another. The clearest example of this is Marie-Laure, who turns to marine biology and reading largely because, as a blind person, she doesn’t have access to…

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