Analysis of “All the Light We Cannot See”


Werner is gifted and has a great understanding of physics surrounding mechanics from the time he is young. He repairs radios and a point, he restores his sister’s broken one and uses it to listen to programs transmitted across Europe. He lost his father in the mines, and they are raised with his sister in Children’s House in Zollverein. Due to his intelligence in science, Frau Elena, who raises them at the House, motivates him and also teaches him French. He breaks through when he mends a broken radio and renovates it to receiving broadcasts from outside the country. Werner is amazed by the skills he acquires with time, especially when he discovers a new way of exploring the world by use of the radio waves (“LitCharts”). Due to the qualifications, he is accepted to a Nazi training school, which he perceives to be a chance of making his dreams come true. He is considered to be exceptional in the school and promised to participate in more important things. The skills he has are supposed to help people, but the school trains individuals to fight in the Nazis. Blinded by the promises and the ambitions he has, his talents are misused by the Nazis and used to appropriate evil during the war. He is placed in a group that tracks signals from their enemy, killing them. Guilt befalls on him when his group dies a young girl after wrongly tracing the signal. When he meets Marie in Saint-Malo, he realizes that he has been lysing to himself. Therefore he risks everything to save her life, redeeming his soul (Doerr 35).

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This essay focuses on how Werner redeems his soul towards the end of the story. It will also analyze the activities he took part in but did not help him regain his soul. Therefore, three characters will be interpreted, including Marie Laure, Dr. Hauptmann, and Fredrick. Their relationship with Werner will assist in determining how they impacted the course of his life (“LitCharts”).

How Werner Redeems His Soul


Werner and Marie-Laure are among the few people who have survived the war and have a unique story to tell. Their lives matter in telling the story about the war in this book. Marie reads the book “Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea,” of which the characters are trapped as Werner listens to trough his radio. She hopes that the story gives some people comfort by reading it. On midnight august 13th, she decides to record herself. She has not taken any food for about two days, and he is left with only one can. From the signals, Werner recognizes where the transmission is coming from (Doerr 85). He risks his life during the night and sneaks to the House so that he could save the family. There is a ceasefire the next day, and when it stops, they move out of the House so that they could escape from the city. When they are few miles from Saint-Malo, they are caught up by French resistant fighters who are then taken into the Americans in a hotel. He is considered as a prisoner, and when he tries to escape, he steps on a landmine that was set up by his former army members, and he dies (Doerr 75).

The analysis above shows how guilt has driven Werner to save a girl who is trapped in an attic. He starts seeing the light through the evil they commit as an army, which haunts him making him decide between saving the girl rather than killing him. He gets a chance to practice the virtue of kindness to a fellow human being, which affects her destiny. He falls in love with Marie while saving her life. As described by the author, Marie sees more than a Nazi soldier in Werner as they were portrayed before. Werner cannot even leave her to escape on her own. This shows his renewed soul, which sees beyond the war and enemies but represents the art of humanity to others (“LitCharts”).

Dr. Hauptmann

He is an instructor of technical sciences at the National Institute School, where Werner attends. When he discovers the gift Werner has for mechanics, he decides to make him an exceptional student and teaches him how to locate radio waves by use of trigonometry to kill other fighters. Dr. Hauptmann is later transferred to Berlin in 1942, where he lies about Werner’s age so that he could be drafted into the Wehrmacht (“LitCharts”). He is a close friend to Werner during the first days at the institution. Werner solves the tasks he is given during the training in the shortest time possible. When he is discovered, he rises in the school due to his intelligence. He is appointed by Dr. Hauptmann to work in the institution’s laboratories. The professor provided bright students with projects in science and unique assignments that would take a good position in the faculty. Later, Werner realizes the missing conscience in the morality of the Nazi regime, and when he asks him, Dr. Hauptmann exposes his pettiness through the replies. He even lies about the age of Werner, and he is sent to the army of Germany (“LitCharts”).

Warner realizes that the state had trained him with all other comrades to obey all the orders, whether they are immoral or not. The ranks had blinded him he was given and the way he was treated as unique in school. He was involved in the war and did not put into consideration if what they were doing was right or wrong. Although the fact that his soul was lost, he could not redeem it by following the orders of these professors and not considering humanity (Doerr 20).

Frank Volkheimer

He is an older student that Werner meets at the training institution. He is enormous in terms of physical appearance and serves as an assistant while still at school. Later, he joins the Germany army, where Werner is under his command. Despite being cruel to the prisoners of the military, he is gentle to Werner saving his life on several occasions (Doerr 35). He values the friendship he has with Werner than the loyalty he has towards the army. He kills more than one hundred people in the war, but the decency existing between their relationships remains even with the doctrines of the Nazis. He can recognize the abilities Werner has and sees that they could be used better.

While in Saint-Malo, he protects Werner during his escape from the camp by faking ignorance. This is a big step towards Werner redeeming her guilt as he finds it easy to escape from the mission. Though he feels the same, Volkheimer could not survive as he was the leader. They had been made to follow rules which were, in a way, inhumane (Doerr 42).


The analysis above shows how different characters helped Warner to either redeem or not redeem his soul, which he believed he had lost earlier in the war. By the interaction with Volkheimer and the saving of Marie, he shows us that despite a cruel environment and harsh doctrines, one can also fall for humanity. Dr. Hauptmann, on the other hand, shows how people can be blackmailed into only following orders without considering the consequences. In any case, therefore, friendship and humanity should come first to prevent cruelty in society (Doerr 55).


Works Cited

Doerr, Anthony. All the Light We Cannot See Novel. Fourth Estate, 2015.

LitCharts. “Werner Pfennig Character Analysis.” LitCharts,