All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See


Anthony Doerr

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All the Light We Cannot See: 7. Volkheimer Summary & Analysis

After reuniting with Volkheimer, Werner meets his other fellow soldiers. There is an engineer named Walter Bernd, who’s very taciturn. There’s a gap-toothed soldier named Neumann One. Volkheimer is the sergeant, and although he’s no older than 20, he seems far older than his years. The new military force travels across the countryside, setting up transceivers that will be used to locate troops in the distance. Werner wonders how the German soldiers using the transceivers will be able to tell the difference between soldiers and civilians. Werner sees an old man cutting a tree, and wonders if he’ll survive the war.
Werner’s question—how do the Germans tell the difference between civilians and enemies—has an obvious answer: they don’t. They come to suspect everyone, and are willing to kill anyone who stands in their way. But it’s not clear if Werner wants to admit this to himself—it’s as if he’s hoping that by denying the truth to himself, he can make the truth go away. He once again feels trapped by duty, and tries to convince himself that this means he no longer has any free will—he is being forced to commit immoral acts.
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