All the Light We Cannot See Symbols and Motifs

Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See

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All the Light We Cannot See Symbols and Motifs

The Sea of Flames

The Sea of Flames represents the curse of man’s greed and hubris. In the legend of the diamond, the goddess who created the diamond as a gift for her lover, the god of the sea, curses her gift when it is stolen by a prince. The diamond’s curse dooms its owner to eternal life and all of his loved ones to death. To break the curse, according to the legend, the diamond must be returned to the sea.

Throughout the novel, which retells a portion of the history of the diamond, men pursue the diamond for its rarity and value, and through their actions the curse becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whether cursed by a goddess or cursed by man’s own greed, the diamond remains a double-edged possession. The Sea of Flames, because of its value—as a rare 133-carat blue diamond—is a curse for whoever possesses it, because others will always want to steal it.

Von Rumpel’s obsessive pursuit of the diamond, which eventually leads to his death, exemplifies man’s own fulfillment of the curse.

Marie-Laure and Werner return the diamond to the sea, fulfilling the goddess’ wishes and breaking the curse. Symbolically, their relationship and agreement to break the curse represents each character’s goodness and lack of greed, but it also unites the German and the French people in the ending of the war, which was the particular curse of their generation.

Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Jules Verne’s adventure story represents not only the sea and the creatures that Marie-Laure loves, but also adventure and friendship, survival and a love of science. Also, the extremely expensive Braille version of this book, published in two parts, symbolizes the sacrifices Daniel LeBlanc, and later Etienne and their neighbors, make to give Marie-Laure something to brighten her world. This book allows Marie-Laure to escape some of the fear and privation of her life during the war, and the copy of the book she receives for her 16th birthday echoes the copies given to her by her father, left behind in Paris when they escaped, honoring him and giving her hope for the future.


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