All the Light We Cannot See

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Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title All the Light We Cannot See

author Anthony Doerr

type of work Novel

genre Historical fiction

language English

time and place written United States of America, between 2004 and 2014

date of first publication 2014

publisher Scribner

narrator The novel is narrated by an anonymous narrator who describes events in a melancholy and reflective manner.

point of view The narrator speaks in the third person, switching focus from character to character. The narrator is omniscient and relates what each character thinks and feels as well as information that none of the characters know themselves.

tone Thoughtful, melancholy, resigned

tense The novel moves back and forth between different time periods but is always narrated in the present tense.

setting (time) Most of the action takes place between 1934 and 1944. A few additional events take place in 1974 and 2014.

setting (place) The action happens primarily in Paris and Saint-Malo, France, and Germany. A few scenes occur elsewhere in Europe.

protagonist Werner and Marie-Laure

major conflict The major conflict occurs as Werner tries to maintain his moral integrity and use his intelligence as a force for good while Nazi officials urge him toward violence and brutality. A secondary important conflict occurs as von Rumpel pursues the diamond, putting Marie-Laure in danger.

rising action The action of the plot rises as Werner is admitted to a Nazi training school, trained to use his skills to detect radio transmissions, and then sent to the front lines, where he contributes to the deaths of innocent civilians, including a young child. This rising action intersects with the secondary conflict of Marie-Laure being endangered by von Rumpel, creating an opportunity for Werner to help her.

climax The climax occurs when Werner goes to Marie-Laure’s house to help her, thereby committing himself to using his skills and talents to save someone else. At the house, Werner shoots and kills von Rumpel.

falling action The falling action involves Werner helping Marie-Laure escape from the town during the ceasefire. The falling action continues years later as Jutta investigates the belongings she receives from the veterans’ group.

themes War; The Power of Knowledge; The Legacy of the Past

motifs Replicas and Models; Secrets; Radios

symbols Peaches; the Sea of Flames; the Birds of America book

foreshadowing The death of Marie-Laure’s grandfather in World War I foreshadows the deaths of her father and Werner as casualties of World War II. Werner’s affection for his younger sister foreshadows the guilt he will feel when he contributes to the death of a young girl.