Comparison of “All The Light We Cannot See” vs. “About Grace”

Intro Paragraph

Humans continue chasing various seemingly important things in their lives, often forgetting about the real priorities. The two novels by Anthony Doerr About Grace and All the Light We Cannot See reveal the real meaning of the family bonds and love in life of every individual with the help of the protagonists David Winkler and Marie-Laure and their life-long transformations. This work is going to explore the following three arguments: the family bonds and their meaning for the protagonists of the stories at the beginning of the novels, the changes in life, faced by the protagonists in the middle of the novels and finally the changes, happening to their personalities, as described in the end of the novels.


The novels explore the theme of family relationship and the special bond, existing between the family members. The author develops this theme with the help of the protagonists of the stories – Marie-Laure and David Winkler.

Paragraph 1

All the Light We Cannot See is devoted to the story of a blind French girl and a German boy, whose life roads cross at certain moment of time and the novel by Anthony Doerr About Grace explores the life story of a man, who is not young any more and he spends time recollecting his life events. The father of the French girl, who is one of the key characters of the story, works at Natural History Museum. At the beginning of the novel Marie-Laure is a warm and loving girl, who loves her father and relies upon his protection. “I will never leave you, not in a million years.” (Doerr 2017). The progression of this character is related to the character of a German orphan, who has to join the Nazis because of his unique talent in radio sphere. The lives of the two children make unexpected curves and the two get the chance to meet each other. The progression of the protagonist of the novel About Grace is presented to the readers in the form of flashbacks. He was a hydrologist in Anchorage, Alaska. “He called them dreams… All his life it had been like this. His dreams predicted crazy, impossible things…” (Doerr 2015).  He wanted to have a family, and when he finally meets the woman of his life, they free to Ohio, get married and they have a daughter. Both characters perceived family bonds as something very important in their lives.

Paragraph 2

Both characters have to face serious changes in their lives: Winkler leaves his family and Marie-Laure travels to her great-uncle. Winkler’s life starts to change, when David dreams about a flood, in which he is not able to save the life of his daughter and in order to avoid this dream coming true, he escapes from his family and becomes a hermetic handyman on a Caribbean island by St. Vincent. There he lives with a different family for years. Life experience and relationship with this family change the perceptions of the main character and contribute to his progression. As time passes, Winkler becomes conscious about the need to know, whether his daughter Grace is alive. “Memory gallops, then checks up and veers unexpectedly…” (Doerr 2015). Winkler realized by the end of the novel that his imagination and his memory had played games with him all his life long. When Germans occupy the city, Marie-Laure is involved into resistance movement and this is the major moment of her transformation, as she is not simply strong enough to manage herself, by is also able to support others, as soon as she is able to see her inner light and spirit. Progression of the character is revealed though the readers’ focus upon human dialogues and actions in the frames of the correlation of light and cloud formation in nature, leading them through this poetic realism towards some kind of inevitable destination. The novel All the Light We Cannot See explored the imagery of light and darkness from a different position – from the motif of vision and sight of the main heroin. Being supported by the family bonds, the character of the novel are able to survive in most of her life challenging situations and conflicts. Marie-Laure’s great-uncle says “If your same blood doesn’t run in the arms and legs of the person you’re next to, you can’t trust anything”, underlining the meaning of family connection in one’s life. (Doerr 2017). Physical ability and disability to see is the way for the author to remind that there is no place for pure good or evil in the world, instead they overlap with other, creating absolutely strange, but inevitable forms in lives of individuals. All the characters of both novels are representations of this idea of unique composition of good and evil in the world. The protagonists were impacted by the life challenges and difficulties, leading to their change.

Paragraph 3

Imagination plays important role for the progression of the protagonists of both novels. The protagonist of the novel About Grace is dependant upon his imagination, moreover, he is able to dream of things in life, which later come true. It is difficult to state whether this is a talent and advantage in life or a curse of a man, who finally is forced to abandon his family due to the images of a his daughter in danger, which haunt him. The image of the imminent flood and his inability to save his daughter from the rising waters change his life forever, leading to his isolation and suffering. In the novel About Grace Doerr reveals his interests and preoccupation with nature and its beauty:

All day . . . a sensitivity had been building within him: the slightest shift in light or air touched the backs of his eyes, reached membranes inside his nose. It was as if, like a human divining rod, he had been attuning to vapor as it gathered in the atmosphere, sensing it — water rising in the xylem of trees, leaching out of stones, even the last unfrozen volumes, gargling deep beneath the forest in tangled, rocky aquifers — all these waters rising through the air, accumulating in the clouds, stretching and binding, condensing and precipitating – falling. (Doerr 2014). 

Nature seems to be close to humans, but remains uninvolving and cold towards them. The perception of the role of the nature is described in the passage, devoted to Winkler and his perceptions of the world and their change. By the end of the novel Marie-Laure is 76 and she is described as sitting in Paris with her grandson, making reflections of the past. “Every hour … someone for whom the war was memory falls out of the world.” (Doerr 2017).  She is aware of the fact that everybody has his own story as long as he or she lives, then this story is buried with this individual, but not forgotten. Imagination has significant impact upon both charaters of the Doerr’s novels, but in case with Marie-Laure this was due to the fact that she was blind and in case with David Winkler due to his strange ability to foresee some future events.             

Paragraph 4 The theme of family

The theme, which unites the two novels All the Light We Cannot See and About Grace, is the theme of family relationship. Being supported by the family bonds, the characters of the novel are able to survive in most of their life challenging situations and conflicts. Marie-Laure’s great-uncle says “If your same blood doesn’t run in the arms and legs of the person you’re next to, you can’t trust anything”, underlining the meaning of family connection in one’s life. (Doerr 2017). In this novel the author underlines the meaning of strong and loving family as one of the reasons for human existence. The family ties in the novel are unique and they are different from other types of relationships. The protagonist of the story – Marie-Laure has very strong emotional connection to her father, especially after the tragic situation with her mother. Doerr presents the situation, when family is able to “weather the storm”, being the most positive and the strongest force in the novel. Family remains the most important constant in the life of Marie-Laure throughout her whole life, at the beginning of the novel she is presented with her father and by the end of the novel she is with her grandson. For Etienne the relationship with Marie-Laure is the most important, the most precious thing in his life. At the same time he managed to find the meaning of his life in participating in resistance movement, which was possible thanks to his talent in radio transmission: “The violins spiral down, then back up. Etienne takes Marie-Laure’s hand and together, beneath the low, sloping roof—the record spinning, the transmitter sending it over the ramparts, right through the bodies of the Germans and out to sea—they dance.” (Doerr 2017). As time passes family members move away, die, develop other relationships, still family relationships are not broken between them. This could be proved with the end of the novel, when Marie-Laure considers the possibility that her father continues to wonder by her through the streets of Paris. The family connections are vaguer in the novel About Grace, as the protagonist of the story is utterly concentrated upon his imagination, and its leaves him no chance to remain with his wife and daughter, whom he loves very much. He builds relationship with a different family later, when he escapes, but he definitely lacks love and support of his own family. The strongest symbol of family in the novel About Grace is represented by snowflakes. They serve the natural proofs of the fact that nothing in life repeats to the same extent as the snowflakes never repeat. None of them is absolutely similar to the other snowflake and the same happens in human lives, David is to realize by the end of the story that his repeated dream patterns do not mean that these things are going to happen in his life. All the things in life continue to change and at the end of the novel the snowflake becomes the symbol of the six parts of the protagonist’s family – Grace, Naaliyah, Soma, Herman, Christopher and himself. The theme of family bond and the meaning of family relationship is the central theme in both novels.


Overall, the two novels of Anthony Doerr All the Light We Cannot See and About Grace belong to the different periods of his literary carrier and correspondingly obtained different reaction and appreciation from the readers. Both being profound and exploratory, the novels are focused upon similar themes, but treat them from different angles and refer to different realities. The novels explore the theme of connection between technology and science development and humanity. The author researched this theme through the progression of the two bright protagonists of the novels.

Works cited:

Doerr Anthony. About Grace. Scribner; Reprint edition, 2015

Doerr, Anthony. All the Light We Cannot See. Scribner; Reprint edition, 2017

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: June 30, 2022] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]
Haven't found the right essay?
Get an expert to write you the one you need!

Professional writers and researchers


Sources and citation are provided


3 hour delivery