In of war-torn France and the strictly

In the novel All the Light We Cannot See, Doerr is applauded for “masterfully and knowledgeably re-creating the deprived civilian conditions of war-torn France and the strictly controlled lives of the military occupiers” (Hooper 23). However, the use of literary devices in the novel reflects a message deeper than that of just another war-time story. He does not define the characters by war; he defines the characters and gives them a war to respond to. The novel is different from other war stories, in that its focus is on the independent choices of the characters, the reasoning behind these choices, and the means by which these choices intertwine the lives of the characters. That being said, Doerr shares his understanding of the nature of humanity with the reader in his utilization of literary devices used in context of reader-response theory. More specifically, Doerr does this with his use of symbolism. By using symbolism throughout the novel, Doerr gives the reader connections between characters, which then allows the reader to clearly compare and contrast the conditions of the characters in reference to the symbol. In his novel All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr uses the key symbols of the blindness, the maze, and the radio to compare and contrast the two main characters and to reflect this theme that in troubling times humanity should pursue love.Blindness, ironically, leads the character Werner to enlightenment, which occurs when he is stuck underground in the Hotel of Bees. When Werner is in darkness, essentially blind, he is surprised to find that “Sometimes, in the darkness, Werner thinks the cellar may have its own faint light… After a while, he is learning, even total darkness is not quite darkness; more than once he thinks he can see his spread fingers when he passes them in front of his eyes” (Doerr 211). Despite being in total darkness, Werner is able to “see” the room based on his memory. Before this experience, Werner has acted against his better judgment. Listening to those who claim “We act in our own self-interest. Of course we do. Name me a person or a nation who does not. The trick is figuring out where your interests are” (Doerr 84). It is this attitude which prevails among the Nazi leaders and which turns a nation of humans with ability to show compassion into a land of death. At the Nazi school facility Werner trains at, Werner feels like he “is succeeding… and being loyal… being what everybody agrees is good” yet,  “every time he wakes and buttons his tunic, he feels like he is betraying something” (Doerr 250). It is not that Werner truly believes the lies he is told; it is that Werner chooses to believe these things because to say otherwise would make his life more difficult and take his potential. When Werner’s physical eyes are rendered useless in the dark, Werner opens his reflective eyes to see past the twisted implantation he has pretended to believe. In contrast Marie-Laure’s blindness is representative of her fierce insight. She describes it: “What is blindness? Where there should be a wall, her hands find nothing. Where there should be nothing, a table leg gouges her shin. Cars growl in the streets; leaves whisper in the sky; blood rustles through her inner ears” (Doerr 27). Here is where the description of blindness meets the typical understanding, it is the fear of the unknown. However, the end of the description takes an unexpected turn. It discusses Marie-Laure’s gifts taken from the blindness. Her hearing improves, so she is able to focus it in such a way that she can understand the world through the little movements her ears pick up.  This allows her to act with her ideals of principal. Marie-Laure’s sense of morality is apparent with her willingness to assist the French resistance. However, Marie-Laure’s blindness would not have helped her develop into the person she became without the help of her father’s love. Her father, who “says he will never leave her, not in a million years” who claims “You can do this, Marie” even when she feels “she cannot”, is her anchor (Doerr 31, 37). Because Marie-Laure has her father’s support she has the courage to cope with the struggles of being blind and pursues life with bravery. The love between her and her father gives Marie-Laure the courage to live in the light, despite being blind.Another symbol is the maze, which essentially represents the troubles Marie-Laure faces, especially the blindness which makes her whole life like a maze. Marie-Laure listens to her logic when faced with a problem, because she is experienced in dealing with mazes. When she is diagnosed with “Congenital cataracts. Bilateral. Irreparable,” the “Spaces she once knew as familiar… became labyrinths bristling with hazards” (Doerr 27). She is forced to view the objects around herself differently, and move around these objects using the new skills she develops. Her father teaches her to “walk the paths of logic. Every outcome has its cause, and every predicament has its solution. Every lock its key” (Doerr 111). Marie-Laure’s blindness trains her to approach the unknowable logically accompanied by her father’s love which empowers her to handle it. However, when Marie-Laure’s father is imprisoned, the love she once depended on is taken and she falls into a depression. She has lost her direction and no longer has the motivation to face her problems. It is not until she goes to see “the ocean! Right in front of her!” that Marie-Laure is able to face the maze again (Doerr 231). She falls in love with the ocean, and finds in this love a passion for the beauty of the outside world she considered overwhelming. With this motivation, she emotionally processes the loss of her father and chooses her next steps with the logic she had been taught. It is with this love and passion that Marie-Laure learns to face her blindness and her problems once more.The radio is yet another symbol, in this case of hope for Werner. When he first listens to the radio, the world around Werner “looks the same as it always has… Yet now there is music. As if, inside Werner’s head, an infinitesimal orchestra has stirred to life” (Doerr 33). Although Werner is stuck in an orphan’s home, destined to work in the dangerous coal mine which killed his parents, the radio is a way of escaping this reality and allows him to dream of a different future. In fact, Doerr establishes Werner with the radio, because “Werner’s favorite radio program is one about light: eclipses and sundials, auroras and wavelengths.” This program is symbolic and shows the equality of all humanity in seeing light. Werner’s appreciation of this reveals his beliefs in the value of light and the equality of all humans. This emphasizes the corruption which occurs as his goal to escape the fate of the coal mines consumes him, and “in his nightmares, he walks the tunnels of the mines. The ceiling is smooth and black; slabs of it descend over him as he treads” (Doerr 68-69). This fear of being trapped stalks him.The radio represents hope as well to Marie-Laure. She and her uncle helps the French resistance against Germany by using their radio to transmit secret messages to all who listen. This is a manifestation of the choice made in their argument: “‘Doing nothing is as good as collaborating.’… ‘How do you fight a system?’ ‘You try'” (Doerr 269). The radio is a way of fighting the system, also known as a fight for hope. While the Germans take most of her uncle’s radios, he keeps his most-beloved radio secretly in the attic. Etienne holds to his radio because it is the objects which give him purpose, especially in light of his post-traumatic stress disorder and his tendency to see “things that are not there,” which force him to stay indoors (Doerr 122). The radio is the last true reminder of who Etienne is and what he can offer the world. The radio is Marie-Laure’s liberation. When she is stuck in her attic, hiding from a mad man and cannot do anything else, she calls for help on the radio in the hope that someone will hear her, “she keeps saying, ‘Help me.’  ‘He is here. He will kill me” (Doerr 442). Once Werner saves the young girl, Marie-Laure puts her hope in her uncle treasures and the compassion of a stranger. Marie-Laure’s hope in humanity and the fact that someone might be willing to show love, gives her liberation.In conclusion, it is not romantic love which saves Werner and Marie-Laure. Soon after they meet, they are separated, Marie-Laure is brought back to her uncle and Werner surrenders to the French and American militaries. It is a false assumption that this novel is focused on the romance between the two. Werner and Marie-Laure are yet saved by a different love. This is the love that makes the sweet-tempered Marie-Laure angry “At everything and everyone,” questioning “Who knew love could kill you?” (Doerr 226). This is the love which pushes life forward, and which makes hope valuable. This is the core of Doerr’s novel. The message I believe he wants to send is that life is worth living wholeheartedly. The symbols that tie in with the characters lives truly allow us an in depth understanding of this message. It is not a love of fairytale endings. Werner dies soon after leaving Marie-Laure and walks into a land mine. It is undeniably a suicide, and Werner dies wondering “what future remains? The road ahead is blank, and the lines of his thoughts incline inward”, thinking of “Marie-Laure… the pressure of his hand against the webbing between her fingers” (Doerr 480, 481).