Teenagers' Struggles in WWII in All the Light We Cannot See by Doerr

War is a period of hostile relations between societies that develops into armed conflict, branded by destruction, aggression, and mortality, all of which leaving a negative impact for those caught in its midst. Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See tells the story of two teenagers and the difficulties they face during World War II. The first, Marie LeBlanc is a blind girl who evacuates from Paris with her father amid a Nazi invasion. They take refuge to her great – uncle Etienne's house, where her father is eventually arrested for conspiracy.

Marie becomes a part of a French resistance and uses radio telecommunications along with her great - uncle to broadcast information to the Allied war effort. Simultaneously, Werner Pfennig is an intelligent German boy with an aptitude for radio telecommunications that is invited to the National Institute, a prestigious school that breeds Nazi soldiers. Abandoning his sister, Werner sacrifices the morals he stands up for to fulfill his dream of becoming a scientist.

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Unfortunately, Werner is forced into military service and is assigned with the task of eliminating Allied radio broadcasts.

Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See reveals that the horrors of war imposes an individual to unjust conditions and therefore opposes the moral standards of humanity by affecting an individual's environment, integrity, and exposing them to conflicts. Firstly, War can create an environment that negatively impacts the individual. Additionally, an individual's overall character and integrity will decline due to the occurrence of war. Lastly, war establishes a conflict that impairs the individual.

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Primarily, the conflict of war creates a negative environment and wrongly imposes an individual to grim conditions. Early in the book, the impact of the war in Germany focuses on the modernization of warfare and recruiting its soldiers. At a young age, Werner awakes from a nightmare about this progression and reflects on how it increases the stress on his environment, "the ever-quickening, ever-expanding machine that is Germany. And a million men ready to set their lives for it. Good evening, he thinks. Or heil Hitler. Everyone is choosing the latter” (Doerr 68). Werner acknowledges the changes in German society as a sense of national pride is pervasively growing stronger in his community, one that he fears to be a part of. His fear derives from the understanding that war immorally influences children like him to choose one path, to participate in the war and be subject to the political bodies that marginalize their freedom, therefore creating a setting that emotionally strains him. Correspondingly, the war develops an unjust surrounding for Marie-Laure. With Germany's rapid conquest of France, Marie and her father must leave everything behind and are forced to evacuate amid a bomb attack in Paris, "Across Paris, people pack china into cellars, sew pearls into hems, conceal gold rings inside book bindings ... Please let this be a puzzle, an elaborate game Papa has constructed, a riddle she must solve, and everything will return to normal” (75). Because of the outbreak of violence surrounding her, Marie and many others are displaced from their hometown. Marie had originally wanted to continue with her studies and eventually shape her future through perseverance, however, the outbreak of war will immorally overwhelm her ambitions as she flees from her way of life that has always been normal to her. The War drives her to a new environment where she is subjected to unrecognizable conditions that take years for her to adapt to due to her disability. Political forces create a climate of war that immorally dictates an individual's life and creates conditions in a setting that adversely affects the community and the individuals within it. Additionally, war can affect the individual in a way that challenges their integrity and morals.

Furthermore, Individuals with a consistent integrity can be transformed by the war surrounding them. Werner is gifted with knowledge in radio telecommunications and therefore receives an invitation to attend the National Institute, a school that breeds Nazi soldiers of high ranking. His sister, Jutta, expresses her contempt when Werner reveals his choice, They'd say we were devils. That we were committing atrocities ... It's not forever Jutta.

Two years, maybe. Half the boys who get admitted don't manage to graduate. But maybe I'll learn something: maybe they'll teach me to be a proper engineer ... Don't tell lies.

Lie to yourself, Werner, but don't lie to me (133).

Werner, an individual with a strong moral compass and no sense of racial superiority chooses to associate himself with the Nazi's for his own personal interests, while his sister pleads him not to go because of the atrocities he is fully aware of. The circumstances of the war provide Werner a false version of his dream to become a scientist, to associate himself with an immoral cause. This opportunity leads him to become willfully blind to the Nazi cause and suppressive of his moral uprightness, which in turn, leads to a decline in his overall integrity. In addition, for the years to come, the war has a further toll on Werner's integrity. After graduating from the National Institute, Werner is pressed into military service and is assigned to a team that annihilates Allied radio broadcasts. When Werner's squad search a house where they believe there is an Allied radio broadcast, they encounter innocent civilians and his aide, Neuman, kills them, “How could Neuman Two not have known, but of course he didn't, because that is how things are with Neuman Two, with everybody in this unit, in this army, they do as they're told, they move on with only themselves in mind” (368). Werner's and his comrade's integrity are consumed by the conditions of the war. The fascist German state uses the war to prepare Werner and all his comrades to carry out orders that oppose their morals, to become selfish and show no remorse for doing so. The occurrence of war will corruptly shape an individual to the extent where their moral integrity is absent which leads them to commit atrocious acts. War can also establish conflicts towards those who are not engaged in it.

Lastly, the experience of war can expose those that are vulnerable to vast amounts of conflicts with other individuals. Frederick, Werner's only friend at the time, is a shy and intelligent student who is only enrolled at the National Institute to participate in the war, a duty that he supposedly owes. When he begins to fall short in his performances and refuses to kill a prisoner, Fredrick is singled-out by students and teachers. Eventually, Frederick is beaten by other students, so severely that his mind is permanently damaged. When Werner visits him in the infirmary, he is gone, “The nurse bustles over and grimaces at Werner ... “Why so much blood?” he asks. She sets four fingers across her lips. Debating perhaps whether to tell him or pretend she does not know ... “When will he be back?” “Oh, he'll be fine,” she says” (257). A prime aspect of the Nazi order was that its soldiers were organized to serve their state at any cost if not, they would be chastised. The nurse at the National Institute sternly tells Werner that Frederick is fine and simply brushes off his condition. This reveals that the institute itself condones what happened to Frederick as they perceived his kindness for weakness in a way that it seemed natural to immorally take advantage of him. The occurrence of an ongoing war exposes those with a strong compassion for humanity to conflicts that singles out and immorally punishes them. Additionally, Werner's sister, an innocent civilian is exposed to conflicts that eventually breaches her physically, mentally and her spiritual trust for other people. At the end of the war in Europe, the Soviets reached the German capital of Berlin, with good intentions to end the war. Unfortunately, the Russians were notoriously cruel and spurred a conflict with Jutta, as she loses her durability and fails to suppress the Russian's intentions to sexually coerce her, "The officer goes last, trying each of them in turn, and he speaks single words while he is on top of Jutta, his eyes open but not seeing ... Many years later Jutta will hear the words he spoke repeated in her memory” (491). The Russians thought best of themselves to seek retribution for their hardships in the war - despite the fact that the orphans they were harming had nothing to with it, demonstrating that they took advantage of the state of chaos, and immorally scarring Jutta for the majority of her life. Those who are innocent and distant can still experience a trial of terror and immoral conflicts from the war, thus leaving a psychological impact. To conclude, civilians caught in the dismay of war may be immorally subjected to conflicts and atrocities, while those who survive will suffer from mental aftereffects after living through its ruin.

Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See demonstrates that war opposes the standards of human morality by subjecting individuals to conditions that affect their environment, integrity, and conflicts. The environment an individual is situated in will be comfortable but negatively altered and short - lived with an ongoing war. War affects overall integrity to the extent where they become self-centered and show no remorse. The War also sets conflicts with others in order to make them powerless and leaving an impact on life.


Updated: May 03, 2023
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Teenagers' Struggles in WWII in All the Light We Cannot See by Doerr. (2022, Apr 07). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-difficulties-of-two-teenagers-during-world-war-ii-in-all-the-light-we-cannot-see-a-novel-by-anthony-doerr-essay

Teenagers' Struggles in WWII in All the Light We Cannot See by Doerr essay
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