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. Nadel im Heuhaufen Summary & Analysis

Late at night, Werner, Volkheimer, and Dr. Hauptmann go outside to test their transceiver. The purpose of the device, Hauptmann finally reveals, is to locate soldiers over large areas. Volkheimer is sent to hide somewhere in the large field outside the National Institute, broadcasting via radio. Working quickly, Werner uses their receiver to locate Volkheimer in the darkness. Hauptmann watches Werner work, and drinks occasionally from a tiny flask. Werner is disturbed—he’s never seen Hauptmann look so gleeful and uncontrolled. When Werner has determined Volkheimer’s location, Hauptmann tells him to lead them toward his friend. Werner does so, and sees Volkheimer lying down in the darkness. Hauptmann produces a pistol from his pocket, and for a second Werner imagines that Hauptmann is about to shoot Volkheimer. Instead, Hauptmann fires the gun into the air, and a pack of dogs rushes toward Volkheimer—Volkheimer brushes off the dogs easily. Hauptmann laughs contentedly, and Werner is relieved—Hauptmann is back to his old, calm self.
In this long, disturbing episode, Werner sees underneath the veil of even the “good” Nazis. Dr. Hauptmann had seemed to be a kindly, fatherly figure looking out for Werner’s interests, but now it becomes more clear that Hauptmann is nothing of the kind—he’s just using Werner to advance the Nazi agenda. Furthermore, Hauptmann is using science itself—the objective, universal practice that Werner so adores—for his own twisted purposes. The radio science Werner has been working on has no morality or immorality inherent to it, but it can still be used as a weapon to further an immoral cause—in this case to find and kill those whom the Nazis consider enemies. Werner again tries to avoid this truth, however, and chooses to believe that the calm, friendly side of Hauptmann is his “real” self.
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
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