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Importance of Radio in Doerr’s 'All The Light We Cannot See'

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 In Anthony Doerr’s novel, All the Light We Cannot See, we are shown a story of two very different characters coming together in an unlikely way: a radio. In 2019, it is sometimes hard to think about how big the radio was. People used it for news, music, weather warnings, and even communication. Its main importance is its use for communication throughout the novel. The radio in this novel is a very important part of the story and without it, the story would not be even close to the same.

Since the novel is based in the 1940s, the technology that led you to the outside world was very limited. Televisions were around, but not many families had them due to poverty after the Great Depression, and cell phones were not a thing yet. So, the radio in this story serves as the connection Marie-Laurie LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig have to each other and the world around them. Upon finding and fixing up the radio, Werner plays with it and stumbles upon a broadcast of an old man telling his audience to “open your eyes, and see what you can before they close forever,” (Doerr, 49). This first connection begins the importance of the radio; Werner unknowingly is listening in on Marie-Laure’s great uncle’s broadcast, which later will connect him to Marie-Laure when he needs to save her. This part of the novel is one instance where the radio connected two people.

The radio not only provided an unknown connection to the two main characters, but it also provided with means of communication through the secondary characters. Marie-Laure’s great uncle, Etienne used the radio to get into contact with his brother Henri when he went off to war. “I thought that if I made the broadcast powerful enough, my brother would hear me. That I could bring him some peace, protect him as he had always protected me,” (Doerr, 161). Etienne tried so hard to connect with his brother through radio broadcasts, sadly he never did, but this struggle to connect shows how important the radio was for means of communication during the wars. Even though the connection was never made, the attempt most likely made Etienne feel as though he were making a difference and that he could connect to him.

The most valid reasoning behind the importance of the radio throughout the novel is the fact that Marie-Laurie would not have survived without its power of connection. When Marie-Laure is finally giving up and waiting for Von Rumpel to find her, she decides to play music loud enough to be heard. This act to Marie-Laure was almost a sign of defeat, but she was unaware of the impact that she had caused. Werner heard the music over the broadcast and immediately begins to escape the ruins that he and Volkheimer were in. Through the radio, Marie-Laure was able to, unknowingly, contact Werner which led to her life being saved. Without both characters having access to the radio, Marie-Laure would have been found by Von Rumpel, and Werner would not have had a strong reason to leave the place he was in. The radio truly saved both of their lives.

In today’s world, the radio is not used nearly as much as it was before technology became more advanced. If anything, the radio is used as nothing more than background noise during a car ride to the store, so what are our means of connecting to the outside world? Our cell phones. Upon the invention of the cell phone, it has become more integrated into our daily lives each day. It started as a way to connect to friends on the go over phone calls, but quickly has become our access to the internet, news, social media, and pretty much anything you could ever think of. Cell phones, specifically smartphones, are our modern version of the radio. Communication, research, news, weather, and anything that we need to know or do is all within reach with smartphones.

The radio is a vital part of the story told in All the Light We Cannot See. It connects the two main characters, adds key details to carry the story, and just overall shows the reader how different everyone’s lives were compared to ours. Without the radio, the story would not have held the same weight or carried the same way. Simply put, the story would not be told as well without it. Today, we do not use the radio as much, but our access to the world is at our fingertips with our cell phones. Everything that is done with the radio in the story could be done with our cellphones. Anthony Doerr’s use of the radio truly transformed the story and showed us the similarities and differences between our technology now and the technology of the 1940s.

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Importance of Radio In Doerr’s ‘All The Light We Cannot See’. (2022, April 08). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 25, 2023, from
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