All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See


Anthony Doerr

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All the Light We Cannot See: 12. Sea of Flames Summary & Analysis

The narrator describes the creation of a diamond. The mass of hot carbon rises from the Earth’s mantle, very slowly. The mass is cooled by rainwater, and over the centuries it crystallizes into a hard, precious stone. One day, a prince discovers the stone, and polishes it until it’s even more beautiful. Years later, the stone is covered by algae and snails.
There’s been a long conflict between fate and freedom in this novel. Here, with the abandonment of the diamond symbolizing fate, Doerr suggests that his protagonists have rejected fate altogether—they’ve exercised free will in their own lives, and have found small, meaningful ways to fight the seemingly inevitable specters of death, war, and tragedy. Once again Doerr steps back to look at the very big picture, and finally makes explicit the comparison between the creation of a diamond and the creation of coal (the subject of one of Henri LeBlanc’s lectures)—it is only human perception that has decided one is more beautiful and valuable than the other. Lastly, Doerr ends with another poignant image of snails, as the resilient and lovely creatures reclaim the diamond and render its “curse” powerless.
Interconnectedness and Separation Theme Icon
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon