"In the lurid, flickering light, he sees that the airplane was not alone…and in a moment of disorientation, he feels that he's looking not up but down, as though a spotlight has been shined into a wedge of bloodshot water, and the sky has become the sea, and the airplanes are hungry fish, harrying their prey in the dark."

As Daniel guides Marie-Laure out of Paris and toward safety at the end of Part One, he offers this description of the airplanes that ominously fly over the grassy field where they rest. This quotation reflects both the inhumanity and the chaotic nature of war while Daniel’s distorted view of the planes adding to the dark tone of the moment. The fact that his perspective seems upside down suggests that war itself is unnatural and unsettling, and comparing the airplanes to carnivorous fish works to depict the violence as particularly barbaric.

"The afternoon is bright enough, but Berlin seems not to want to accept the sunlight, as though its buildings have become gloomier and dirtier and more splotchy in the months since he last visited. Though perhaps what has changed are the eyes that see it." 

Before leaving school to officially join the military, Werner uses the last of his money to visit Frederick, now handicapped, at his home in Berlin. This event, which occurs in the chapter entitled “Frederick” from Part Five, highlights the physical toll that the war takes on the city as well as the psychological effects that it has on Werner. He views Berlin in a far more negative light than he did during his first trip, a perspective which suggests that his youthful innocence has all but disappeared.

"Soldiers from an infantry battalion lie along the platform, all of them asleep, as though some enchantress has cast a spell over them. Their faded uniforms look spectral in the dimness, and their breathing seems synchronized, and the effect is ghostly and unnerving."

This quotation comes from the opening pages of Part Seven when Werner reports for military duty. On his journey from Schulpforta, he sees soldiers at a train station in Lodz who seem to have no life left in them, an image which highlights the war’s dehumanizing effect. The ghost imagery also adds to the bleak tone of the moment as the soldiers’ poor condition foreshadows the deadly future that awaits Werner out in the field. 

"This is cleaner, more mechanical, a war waged through the air, invisibly, and the front lines are anywhere. Isn't there a kind of ravishing delight in the chase of it?"

In the chapter entitled “Hunting” from Part Seven, Werner reflects on how much technology has allowed the nature of war to change since his superiors fought in trenches during World War I. Increased use of radios allows soldiers like Werner to remain distanced from physical combat, a separation which prevents him from directly seeing the effects of his actions. The way in which Werner redirects his focus to the more abstract idea of a hunt also allows him to distract himself from the human toll of the war.

"Above Fort National, the dawn becomes deeply, murderously clear. The Milky Way a fading river. He looks across to the fires. He thinks: The universe is full of fuel."

Once the German soldiers arrest Etienne and imprison him at Fort National, he offers this observation as the world around him collapses before his eyes. The cosmic language that Doerr uses in this moment, including references to “the Milky Way” and “the universe,” emphasize just how all-encompassing the war has become. As someone who lived through the horrors of World War I, the return of war makes it impossible for Etienne to see the world as anything other than inherently violent.