1. When Werner and Jutta first hear the Frenchman on the radio, he concludes his broadcast by saying “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever”. How do you think this phrase relates to the overall message of the story?
This is a powerful message, and it basically means do not close your eyes around you to events that are occurring and speak out against them if you do not support those events. I think this has a huge impact on Werner as he experiences the strength of Nazi Germany and the propaganda. We experience Werner’s constant internal struggle with what he thinks is right and with what is expected of him. He is finally able to break through the restraints of what is expected of him when he saves Marie-Laure’s life on multiple occasions when he should have turned her and her great-uncle in to his superiors.
2. Why do you think Marie-Laure gave Werner the little iron key? Why might Werner have gone back for the wooden house but left the Sea of Flames?
I have struggled with this question, and all I can think is that it all symbolizes freedom. The key, the replica house, the Sea of Flames. The key is the item that unlocks a place of solace for Marie-Laure during the war, and it is the place that started her love of the mollusks class. The house represents a place of intellectual freedom for Werner with the Frenchman’s broadcasts that fueled his love of discovery, and for Marie-Laure, the house represented the location of freedom from the war, because that’s where she survived the siege of Saint-Malo. Sea of Flames is something that previous owners have not been able to relinquish, either due to beauty, wealth or the curse. It holds a vast amount of “power” over its owners.
Understanding that, I think Werner went back for the miniature house because of the importance it held for him, it’s the item that started his intellectual freedom and the place where he was able to break free of the Nazi mindset. I think Werner left the Sea of Flames to prove that some things in this world are more valuable than riches, and thus fulfilling Dr. Geffard’s statement that “only the strongest people can turn away” from the feelings caused by the stone. He returned the key and the house to Marie-Laure as a reminder to her of what they shared in those brief hours during and after the siege on Saint-Malo, and as a reminder to her of her own freedom that occurred during the war.
3. The author writes, “To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness.” What did you learn or realize about blindness through Marie-Laure’s perspective? Do you think her being blind gave her any advantages?
Those of us with sight consider blindness a disability, but Marie-Laure’s perspective showed us it’s all a matter of how you perceive it. When she first became blind she was self-loathing and let the blindness limit her ability. But her father, through his assistance and town miniatures, showed her that she’s not disabled at all and that she can do anything the rest of us can do. She learned to walk around town without assistance by counting lampposts, drains, and park benches, she taught her self to read and read some pretty impressive books (Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea are not easy reads!), and she assisted in the war efforts and comforted her not so sane uncle. I think all of this proves that her blindness was more of an advantage than a hindrance to Marie-Laure. In regards to perspective, I think Marie-Laure’s perspective is pretty unique one, and the things we experience with her, the smells, tastes, feelings, and sounds, provide a totally different perspective on the war than the other characters’ experience.
4. The narration moves back and forth both in time and between different characters. How do you think the experience would have been different if the story had been told entirely in chronological order?
I, honestly, really enjoyed the back and forth of time. I think Doerr did a great job of making sure the reader did not get lost with the narration, and the back and forth provided insights into characters decisions, especially with Werner and Marie-Laure. I think some of the important decisions and actions made by the characters would have been lost if told chronologically, because there is a chance the reader would have forgotten a circumstance in the 1930s that fueled a certain response in the 1940s.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Excellent choice Anne and Kristyn! I’m a sucker for anything fiction and history-based!
Have you read All the Light We Cannot See? What were your thoughts?