All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

The Sea of Flames Symbol Icon

The beautiful, priceless diamond known at the Sea of Flames could be termed the “MacGuffin” of All the Light We Cannot See: it’s an object that drives the plot forward for the simple reason that many characters want it. Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel tracks the diamond—which is rumored to give eternal life to its owner, but to cause all its owner’s loved ones to die—all the way to Saint-Malo, and he seems willing to kill anyone who stands in his way. There would thus be no climax in the novel without the diamond—no story arc. And yet Doerr suggests that the Sea of Flames is, at the end of the day, an utterly banal thing—just a random piece of carbon that happens to have cooled and crystallized in a particularly pretty way. We might say, then, that the Sea of Flames symbolizes the two sides of Doerr’s story: the chaos and meaningless of existence versus fate, beauty, and science (all things that imply a kind of order or meaning in life). One could argue that the crossed paths of Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig represent nothing but a coincidence (“just a random piece of carbon”), but it could also be said that Marie-Laure and Werner were destined to meet in the end, proving the existence of fate (a magical diamond). Wisely, Doerr doesn’t really argue for one point of view or the other: the diamond is both ordinary and extraordinary, meaningless and meaningful, just as the plot of the book seems dictated by the laws of chance as well as the laws of fate.

The Sea of Flames Quotes in All the Light We Cannot See

The All the Light We Cannot See quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Sea of Flames. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Fourth Estate edition of All the Light We Cannot See published in 2015.
Zero (August 7, 1944): Number 4 rue Vauborel Quotes

Marie-Laure twists the chimney of the miniature house ninety degrees. Then she slides off three wooden panels that make up its roof, and turns it over. A stone drops into her palm. It’s cold. The size of a pigeon’s egg. The shape of a teardrop. Marie-Laure clutches the tiny house in one hand and the stone in the other. The room feels flimsy, tenuous. Giant fingertips seem about to punch through its walls. “Papa?” she whispers.

Related Characters: Marie-Laure LeBlanc (speaker), Daniel LeBlanc
Related Symbols: The Sea of Flames, The Models of Paris and Saint-Malo
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Ten (12 August 1944): Comrades Quotes

“The cease-fire is scheduled for noon, or so they say,” von Rumpel says in an empty voice. “No need to rush. Plenty of time.” He jogs the fingers of one hand down a miniature street. “We want the same thing, you and I, Private. But only one of us can have it. And only I know where it is. Which presents a problem for you. Is it here or here or here or here?”

Related Characters: Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel (speaker), Werner Pfennig
Related Symbols: The Sea of Flames
Page Number: 464
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Twelve (1974): Sea of Flames Quotes

It is cut, polished; for a breath, it passes between the hands of men.
Another hour, another day, another year. Lump of carbon no larger than a chestnut. Mantled with algae, bedecked with barnacles. Crawled over by snails. It stirs among the pebbles.

Related Symbols: The Sea of Flames, Whelks, Mollusks, and Shells
Page Number: 520
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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The Sea of Flames Symbol Timeline in All the Light We Cannot See

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Sea of Flames appears in All the Light We Cannot See. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Zero (August 7, 1944): Number 4 rue Vauborel
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...her model. She takes off the “roof” of the tiny house, and finds a small stone underneath it. She whispers, “Papa?” (full context)
Zero (August 7, 1944): Bombs Away
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
...fire their guns, but hit nothing. In her room, Marie-Laure cowers and holds the tiny stone close to her chest. In the cellar where Werner is sitting, the light bulb in... (full context)
One (1934): Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...children, and tells them that on the 13th floor of the museum there is a diamond called the “Sea of Flames.” He tells the children the story behind it: long ago,... (full context)
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
The tour guide continues his story. Years after the prince found the stone, traders in India discovered a beautiful diamond. A duke bought the stone from the traders,... (full context)
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...the guide has told her. She wonders if it would be hard to find the Sea of Flames . A month later, she goes totally blind. (full context)
One (1934): Sea of Flames
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...there are rumors that the Museum of Natural History is going to display a rare diamond. The stone, Marie-Laure overhears a man telling his friend, has been in the museum’s collection... (full context)
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...Dr. Geffard what he thinks, but he gives her a very technical answer about how diamonds are produced from coal. Nevertheless, Marie-Laure confesses to Dr. Geffard that she hopes her father... (full context)
One (1934): Fade
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...up to the Sea of Flames’ display at the museum, Marie-Laure is terrified that the diamond will curse her beloved father. She tries to convince herself that Dr. Geffard and Marie-Laure’s... (full context)
One (1934): Exodus
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
...asleep, her father takes out a small object he’s taken from the museum: seemingly a diamond. The director of the museum has arranged for a “decoy” diamond to be placed in... (full context)
Two (8 August 1944): Number 4 rue Vauborel
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
Marie-Laure sits alone in her room, clutching the stone in her fist. She calls her father’s name, Daniel, and wonders if her great-uncle Etienne... (full context)
Two (8 August 1944): Down Six Flights
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...herself to stand up and make her way out of her house. She puts the stone back inside the model house, puts the house in her dress pocket, and looks for... (full context)
Three (June 1940): Château
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
...go to a hotel on the outskirts of Evreux. Marie-Laure’s father, who can feel the diamond in his pocket, tries to tell himself that it’s only a decoy, made of glass.... (full context)
Three (June 1940): Museum
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
...whispers, “Enough.” Hublin takes Rumpel to a large, beautifully designed safe, and produces a “blue stone as pig as a pigeon’s egg” from the safe. Rumpel is impressed with the stone... (full context)
Three (June 1940): Bath
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...Meanwhile Marie-Laure’s father (Daniel) has been going through a crisis lately. He obsesses over the diamond he’s been carrying from Paris, and wonders if it’s real. If so, he suspects that... (full context)
Five (January 1941): Lapidary
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
...His only failure so far is his failure to find the legendary Sea of Flames diamond. The stone he found in the Natural History Museum was a fake—just a piece of... (full context)
Five (January 1941): Diagnosis
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
...replicas of the Sea of Flames sent out by the museum authorities, plus the real stone itself. (full context)
Five (January 1941): Treatments
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...researches the history of the Sea of Flames. He reads a book explaining that the stone can make its owner live forever. (full context)
Six (8 August 1944): Someone in the House
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
...wardrobe, open the secret panel on the wardrobe’s back, and crawls through. She clutches the stone in her hand, hoping it will keep her safe. She also takes her cans, knife,... (full context)
Six (8 August 1944): Sixth-floor Bedroom
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...He looks through the rooms, hoping to find a dollhouse, which he knows contains the diamond for which he’s been hunting. Rumpel thinks about his own daughters, and wishes he could... (full context)
Seven (August 1942): Loudenvielle
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
...he was discovered to be carrying many gems. Von Rumpel investigates the gems—there are beautiful stones, including one large diamond. Von Rumpel is excited to discover that the diamond resembles the... (full context)
Seven (August 1942): The Third Stone
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
In Amiens, von Rumpel tracks down a third stone that looks like the Sea of Flames. To his dismay, the stone turns out to... (full context)
Seven (August 1942): Rue des Patriarches
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...remembers the intricate designs of the safe that held the first false version of the Sea of Flames . Exhilarated, von Rumpel seizes the tiny model of the apartment house in which he’s... (full context)
Eight (9 August 1944): Delirium
World War II, the Nazis, and the French Resistance Theme Icon
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
...With this in mind, he staggers back to the model of the city—he’s sure the stone is there somewhere. (full context)
Nine (May 1944): Little House
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
...that her father designed, picks up the model of Etienne’s house, and finds a “pear-shaped stone inside.” (full context)
Nine (May 1944): Sea of Flames
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
...which she has just discovered inside Daniel’s model of Saint-Malo. She can tell that the stone is beautiful, but it intimidates her because of its reputation of doom. Marie-Laure tries to... (full context)
Nine (May 1944): 7 August 1944
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...Madame Ruelle gave Etienne yesterday. Marie-Laure picks up the model of the house with the Sea of Flames inside it, and hides it under her pillow. (full context)
Ten (12 August 1944): Captain Nemo’s Last Words
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...intruder shouting in frustration downstairs. Marie-Laure considers simply giving him the model house with the Sea of Flames in it, but decides that she’ll finish reading Verne before she does anything else. She... (full context)
Ten (12 August 1944): Visitor
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
...Natural History the entire time. It’s also possible that Claude Levitte could have snatched the diamond after taking Marie-Laure away. And of course it’s also possible that the diamond itself isn’t... (full context)
Twelve (1974): Sea of Flames
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon
The narrator describes the creation of a diamond. The mass of hot carbon rises from the Earth’s mantle, very slowly. The mass is... (full context)