All the Literature We Cannot See With as much time and energy that readers divest into reading, they certainly want what they read to be worthwhile. According to Jago, literature is defined as works that are worthwhile, texts that “we’re likely to remember-ones that may, in fact, influence who we are”. By this definition, Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See is a marvelous piece of literature. Doerr crafts a story as complex as reality with characters as complicated as real people. The story will linger in the mind, the words somehow leaving behind an unexplainable trace.
All the Light We Cannot see is a captivating book. Doerr first captures the reader with his elegant diction and flowing syntax. “At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines… ” (Doerr 3): with this, Doerr draws the reader into the world he has created, allowing them to forget that they are even reading. Every page brings the reader farther away from reality. Quite uniquely, Doerr can build a world without visual description, as parts of the narration are from the perspective of blind Marie-Laure. From outside comes a light tinkling, fragments of glass, perhaps, falling into the streets. ” (Doerr 96)sound is one of Marie-Laure’s ways of navigating the world around her, along with touch, and therefore sound is highly present in Doerr’s description. It is only in books such as these that the reader can lose themselves in, be wholly captivated by the text of the author.
Despite the fact that the story takes place in war-torn Europe during World War II, the novel is highly relatable, doing all the more to captivate the reader. Take, for example this line: “He ill never be good enough” (Doerr 113). Who has never felt this way? But again, who has felt this way in relation to getting into a Nazi-run school, as Werner is when thinking this? This line resonates with the reader, who was likely screaming at Werner to run far, far away from the school. He wants it more than anything, but thinks he will never get it. With the one phrase “good enough” the reader understands Werner. Whoever they are, every person has struggled with some variation of the concept of being “good enough” to achieve their dream.
No reader is exactly like Werner, an orphan with pure white hair, a genius, a brainwashed boy who becomes a Nazi; it is in lines such as this that Doer captures the underlying sameness of humankind, drawing in the reader and making them understand. After reading (and possibly rereading) All the Light We Cannot See, readers have a better understanding of emotion. For this line is quite true: “This, she realizes, is the basis of his fear, all fear. That a light you are powerless to stop will turn on you and usher a bullet to its mark” (Doerr 160).
Fear is something everyone faces. Doerr visits the theme of fear often, and reminds readers that “her great-uncle was not always so fearful, that he had a life before this war… he was once a young man who dwelled in the world and loved it has she does” (Doerr 284); the take away is that fear is learned through living. It is in the complex interweaving of the survival versus living theme and the fear theme that a powerful message is delivered. Fear cannot be broken by merely surviving, as evident by the continuing fear of all the characters surviving the war.
It is only at the resolution of the book, when the war ends and remaining characters pick themselves up and dust themselves off, that fear is overcome (though not entirely, that is an impossible feat). “We rise again in the grass. In the flowers. In songs” (Doerr 529). By surviving the war, Marie-Laure was able to live again. Her story is a message to all who struggle with fear: survive until living becomes possible again. Fear cannot be forgotten or ignored, but it can be overcome. A reader walks away from All the Light We Cannot see a changed person. Doerr makes the reader care about characters, makes the understandable and relatable.
Even if they cannot find the words to explain just what it is that the book has left them with, there is a trace of this book in every reader’s mind. Maybe they took away a unique message. Maybe they focused on themes of light and darkness. There are so many elegant sentences and complex themes and messages to uncover, something different can resonate with each reader. Thus, it is a very unique and personal experience reading All the Light We Cannot see. This novel is also one that can be read again and again and again and draw a new insight each time. It is a novel that does indeed reward the time of the reader.
It is a literary masterpiece. Not only is All the Light We Cannot See literature, it is also just plain good. It can be explained as simply as that. It does not feel like work to analyze or read. It is enjoyable, unlike other texts. Writer admits this is an opinion—but also is not hesitant to say that some works considered literary are quite boring, and thus, not rewarding or enjoyable to read. So can literature really be defined as Jago defines it? All the Light We Cannot see fulfills all of Jago’s requirements to be considered literature. But could that not be argued?
Could another reader have had a different relationship with the text? Certainly! Jago’s definition of literature lies so heavily on the reader’s relation to the text in a way that does not lend itself to formal papers or objective discussion. Additionally, classifying something as literature seems to free it of critique, as though literature is automatically synonymous with “good”. For example, writer is reading a novel highly praised and a revered piece of literature. But writer does not find the novel at all enjoyable or rewarding, and frankly does not understand the praise it receives.
Following Jago’s definition, writer would not consider the novel literature at all. The idea exists that certain texts are more worthy of being read or written than others, whereas the goal should be to read as much as we can, and what we enjoy. If literature was seen as any published written work made with the intention of telling a story-fictional or not —from the shortest fanfiction to the longest novel, discussion could be of a works messages, of its themes, of its relation to the world around us, of its strengths, and most importantly its flaws.
Not if it is worthy of a pretentious classification. Literature is not perfect, and flawed works can still be worthwhile. A text’s worthiness of having been read is decided by each individual reader, but its worth to be read by others is not to be decided by anyone. In short, read what is enjoyable, not worrying about what others think about it.