107 pages 3 hours read

Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2014

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Many characters experience both literal and psychological entrapment in this novel. In one narrative arc, Werner is trapped in a basement by rubble after the Allied bombing of Saint-Malo. On a symbolic level, Marie-Laure is entrapped by her blindness and von Rumpel is trapped in his dying body. On a psychological level, Etienne is trapped by his agoraphobia, caused by the trauma of war; and Werner is trapped in his role first as a student at Schulpforta and later as a Wehrmacht soldier. Throughout the novel, Werner views the world in terms of people’s assigned roles and their imprisonment in them.

Each character fights his entrapment, and some are more successful than others at escaping or overcoming their traps. For example, Werner finally escapes the Reich at the end of the novel, when he decides not to report Etienne’s radio broadcasts and kills von Rumpel to save Marie-Laure. He falls in love with Marie-Laure, and through their meeting, the meaning of his life is transformed. Though Marie-Laure does not return his love, she is grateful to Werner and redeems his humanity by sharing the last of her food with him and by trusting him with the key to the grotto.

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By Anthony Doerr