Jutta shows Werner that she’s discovered ten yards of copper wire lying in the mud near their orphanage. Werner is delighted—he uses the wire to extend the reach of his radio. As a result, he’s able to listen to radio broadcasts in languages other than German, such as Hungarian and even English.
Werner’s growing mental capacity reflects the growing reach of his radio—he’s absorbing lots of information, and in disobedience to the social norms of Nazi Germany, he’s not limiting himself to only German culture or language. The radio is also Doerr’s powerful symbol for human connection—however tenuous such a connection might be, Werner can now experience the larger world even in his relative isolation.
One night, Werner uses his newly powerful radio to listen to a broadcast about the history of coal. Fascinated, Werner listens as the broadcaster, a Frenchman, describes the life cycle of a piece of coal. It begins as a plant, an animal, or a tree, millions of years ago. Over time, the living creature’s remains decay into carbon, which is compressed into coal, which is used to power houses and engines. The French broadcaster ends his lecture by encouraging his listeners, “Open your eyes and see what you can before they close forever.” This inspires Werner to become more inquisitive.
Like Marie-Laure, Werner seems fascinated by slow, gradual processes—here, the life cycle of a piece of coal (we should also note that a piece of coal is produced in more or less the same way a diamond like the Sea of Flames is made: heat, pressure, and carbon). It’s more explicitly suggested here that Werner and Marie-Laure have a shared temperament of inquisitiveness. The Frenchman’s words also clearly reference the theme and symbol of vision—even if “seeing” doesn’t mean literally seeing with the eyes, it is important to seek out the truth and to try to understand the world as best as possible.