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‘All the light we cannot see’ written by Anthony Doerr is a novel set during WWII, following the lives of two protagonists. The first being a blind girl, Marie-Laure Leblanc, living inside Nazi-occupied France and the other being an orphaned boy living in Germany, Werner Pfennig. While living inside the orphanage with his sister Werner discovers a broken radio. This radio is a profound and powerful moment in Werner Pfennig life which causes a change in the way he contemplates and interprets the world, changing his actions throughout the book.
At the beginning of the novel, Werner is depicted to be driven by his passion to understand the world around him. When Werner finds the radio, he falls in love with the concept of it, “A mouth against a microphone in some faraway yet simultaneous evening - the sorcery of it holds him rapt.” The radio allowed Werner to grow in his knowledge and understanding of physics. Through listening to the Frenchman’s soothing voice Werner’s curiosity was sparked and the radio was essentially what provided the pathway for him to attend the school in Schulpfota.
Through Werner’s time at the school based in Schulpfota and working for the private German force fixated on hunting and extinguishing nemesis radio transmitters, he was able to find comfort and security when he was near radios. “To see them all the way out here soothes him, as though he has turned and found an old friend floating besides him in the middle of the sea.” This quote describes the emotional attachment that young Werner felt towards radios. In the midst of such extreme unfamiliar circumstances, Werner was able to hang onto the familiarity of his innate understanding of mechanics.
Towards the end of Werner’s short lived, but incredible lifetime, he finally was able to break free from the hold that the Nazi German ideology possessed over his actions. “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.” This particular quote is mentioned four times throughout the novel and was spoken by the Frenchman when Werner first found the radio. The repetition of this significant quote allows readers to notice that Werner struggled with trying to interpret its meaning. The exposure Werner had with the outside world transported through wave frequencies and delivered through radios allows him to see through the propaganda and critically think though the manipulation of the German Nazi’s. By saving Marie Laure’s life Werner demonstrated that he finally understood what the Frenchman said many years earlier.
In conclusion, this novel allows readers to view the role and effect that radios had in Werner Pfennig’s lifetime. This essay dissects merely three out of many instances that Werner has been affected by the broken radio. The radio allowed him to attain understanding, which provided incredible opportunity creating a change in his outlook on the world, and finally in turn, allowing him to grow in his beliefs and values as an individual.
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