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Similarities Between 'All The Light We Cannot See' and 'Life is Beautiful'

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 “Historical fiction tells the stories of ordinary people living in extraordinary times,” as quoted by Ellen Klages and it is through these stories of ordinary people that we are able to deepen our understanding of the human experience. 

Stories that unveil our clouded view of history allow us to reinstate righteousness and empower marginalised voices that need to be heard. History itself is a complex story written by the powerful with the intent to influence and shape our sense of identity and belonging. It is through historical fiction that responders are invited to reassess what they have been told by the victors and by acknowledging that isn’t the only story, are prompted to engage with marginalised individuals. Throughout Anthony Doerr’s postmodern novel, All The Light We Cannot See, we see an exploration of the true complexity of human nature as he highlights that dichotomies such as “powerful” and “powerless” do not show a true representation of minority groups. Similarly in the film Life is Beautiful, directed by Roberto Benigni, we see the use of the fable form to transform history into a fairytale, therefore reconstructing the story into one of hope rather than one of despair. The representations of minority groups shown in these texts allow us as an audience to deepen our comprehension of individual and universal experiences and in doing so, break the single story of our history.

It is through dichotomies that macro narratives are able to harness the power to blind the audience from the true complexity of human nature. Doerr hopes to convey this complexity by showing that there is always more to a story than dominating powers are telling us as foreshadowed in the title of the novel All The Light We Cannot See. Throughout the novel, there is the constant acknowledgment of light and darkness, specifically through characterisation of Marie-Laure who is physically visionless. Although besides the literal representation of light and dark, Doerr explores the link of light and dark to good and evil and how much these themes overlap in characters. Whilst Marie-Laure is physically blind and in the dark, unable to see intricate details such as facial expressions, she very strongly represents the pure, moralistic side of the story, searching for the good in everyone she meets, despite being told differently or having doubts herself. This expression of resistance to a character’s classification can similarly be seen through the characterisation of Jutta who finds herself questioning that the morals of the Nazi regime aren’t as pure or good as she is being told even though she is unaware of the evil actions and has no reason to demurral this at all. By implementing situations where a character is given a path which strongly leads them to either light or dark but chooses to waver, Doerr positions the audience to acknowledge that not everything is as simple as dichotomies such as “heroes” and “villains” and history is much more complex than the dominating stories we have been told.

By creating a direct link between fantasy and reality, stories are given the potential to empower the powerless and create a new reality for responders. Benigni constructs Guido to be someone who is consumed by the imaginative world, so much so that he is able to manipulate himself and the people around him to believe their life is more than the oppressive situation they are facing. Guido’s Charlie Chaplin type nature makes it easier for him to adapt to big changes in his lifestyle by making light out of serious situations and refusing to accept his actuality. The game that Guido creates for his son Joshua not only helps to maintain his innocence and blind him from the true realities they are living in but it creates a new setting for audiences who are responding to the time. The fairytale setting is very evident in Life Is Beautiful right from the beginning as Guido calls Dora “princess” upon meeting her, as well as regarding himself as a prince. Similarly, these fairytale character profiles are noticeable in All The Light We Cannot See as we perceive Marie-Laure as the innocent child and Von Rumpel as the evil villain. The fantasy setting matters to audiences because it hides the harshness of the time period and highlights the hope and optimism of those who are facing oppressive situations like the Holocaust. By hiding the cruelty, responders learn new perspectives and in turn discover more about the human experience we take as individuals.

All The Light We Cannot See and Life Is Beautiful convey to responders the importance of stories to highlight the forgotten perspectives of history. Together they explore the complexity of human nature and accentuate hope instead of fear to bring comfort to audiences. Doerr highlights the dichotomy of “light” and “dark” and by constructing characters that are not simply one or the other clearly demonstrates that there are not only two sides to history and every individual resists specific aspects in different ways. Benigni addresses the idea that stories are able to hide us from the harsh, unfair side of history by using the fable form and storytelling to free characters and manipulate them into situations they would rather be in. Therefore Doerr and Benigni are able to portray to us why stories matter – to empower those who once were oppressed and to feed us hope and bravery. 

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Similarities Between ‘All The Light We Cannot See’ And ‘Life Is Beautiful’. (2022, April 08). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from
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