All the Light We Cannot See

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Main Ideas

Symbols

Main Ideas Symbols

Peaches

In the novel, peaches symbolize security and safety. When Marie-Laure and her father finally arrive in Saint-Malo after a long and perilous journey, they are hungry and exhausted. Madame Manec offers them canned peaches to eat, which symbolizes that they have finally arrived somewhere where they can feel safe and fed. Years later, after Werner shoots von Rumpel and Marie-Laure can finally leave the attic, Werner and Marie-Laure eat canned peaches together. The reoccurrence of the peaches shows that they have achieved at least temporary security, as Marie-Laure and her father did. Peaches are also a key symbol because they are a fairly humble household item, which become an incredible luxury to people who have been deprived of everything. This symbolism shows how war and tragedy transform mundane pleasures into wonderful luxuries. The peaches also carry important symbolism because they are canned and preserved, revealing how precious things can be preserved and protected even during dangerous times.

The Sea of Flames

The Sea of Flames diamond symbolizes the human desire for power and control. According to the legend, the prince who seized the diamond became obsessed with the power and status it conferred on him. Even after rumors of the curse began to circulate, people still wanted the diamond because they wanted to feel invincible and were willing to risk the associated suffering for incredible power. The curse associated with the diamond is an important part of the symbolism because it implies that power always comes with consequences and corruption. Von Rumpel’s desire to obtain the diamond shows his desire for power and control—particularly power over his own mortality. When Werner and Marie-Laure both decide not to take the diamond with them when they flee Saint-Malo, they reveal that they have different values and stand in contrast to von Rumpel. They have seen the consequences for people who choose to pursue power, and this goal does not interest them. So, Marie-Laure abandons a priceless diamond in favor of a peaceful life.

The Birds of America book

The Birds of America book symbolizes Werner’s kindness and tender affection for Frederick. When Werner is a boy and goes to visit Frederick’s home in Berlin, Frederick shows him a beautiful copy of the book, which is his prized possession. Like Werner, Frederick is kind-hearted and loves learning. Werner wishes it were possible for Frederick to pursue his ambition of studying birds rather than being forced to train to be a soldier. After Frederick is beaten and suffers brain damage, Werner is tormented by guilt that he was not able to protect his friend. When he enters Marie-Laure’s house in Saint-Malo, Werner finds a copy of the same book, which symbolizes how the same kindness that drew him to Frederick is also what compels him to help Marie-Laure. Even with his own life at risk, Werner sets a page from the book aside to send to Frederick. Although this page only arrives decades later, it shows that Werner was always kind at heart and never stopped wanting to help people. Though he failed to protect Frederick, he succeeds later in life at protecting Marie-Laure.