All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See


Anthony Doerr

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All the Light We Cannot See: 5. Grotto Summary & Analysis

In the summer, Marie-Laure spends time with Madame Manec and Crazy Harold Bazin. Bazin says that he wants to show Marie-Laure something. Accompanied by Manec, they go down to an alley far from Etienne’s house. Bazin opens a heavy gate and leads Marie-Laure and Manec through. He takes them down a flight of stairs, and Marie-Laure senses that they’re very close to the ocean. At the bottom of the stairs, Bazin tells Marie-Laure to run her hands along a curved wall that’s covered with snails and dead crabs. He tells Marie-Laure that he used to play in this area, along with Etienne and Marie-Laure’s grandfather Henri. Manec insists that they must go back to the house, and Bazin agrees. But he gives Marie-Laure the key to the gate.
We can sense that this grotto will become important in the plot later on, even if we don’t know exactly how. The grotto is a good example of a “Chekhov’s Gun”—an element of the plot or setting whose importance is heavily foreshadowed. (As Chekhov put it, “if in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.”) Doerr’s descriptions of the shells and barnacles in the grotto is beautiful, and reminds us that Marie-Laure has always been fascinated by shells, snails, and whelks—in a way, the grotto is distinctly “her” space, because she feels such a strong connection with the creatures there.
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