All the Light We Cannot See | Study Guide

Anthony Doerr

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All the Light We Cannot See | Part 6 : 8 August 1944 | Summary



Someone in the House

Marie-Laure sits very still on the third-floor landing, listening to someone enter the house. She does not know if it is day or night, or if he can look up the stairwell and see her. However, she does know if the intruder was a rescuer, he would be calling out for survivors.

While the intruder—von Rumpel—searches the first floor, Marie-Laure retreats up the stairs without a sound. Reaching the sixth floor, she enters her grandfather's bedroom, finds the huge wardrobe, and escapes into the attic through the false door Etienne has built into its back. "Protect me now, stone," she thinks.

The Death of Walter Bernd

Bernd is dying of his injuries. Yet he revives long enough to tell Werner and Volkheimer of the last time his visited his father while on leave. He had ridden all day on the train to get there, but his father kept repeating that he didn't have to stay; he could go off with his friends if he wants to. Bernd leaves, but he has nowhere to go and no friends to meet.

Soon after he finishes his story, Bernd dies. While Volkheimer buries him beneath heaps of bricks, Werner works on the radio using screws, lengths of electrical cord, and a battery he has found.

Sixth-floor Bedroom

Von Rumpel investigates the big bedroom on the sixth floor but finds nothing of interest. In the little bedroom across the hall, however, he finds the scale model of Saint-Malo. He knows from the smuggled letters Marie-Laure has been allowed to receive that this is what he has been looking for. In the last letter her Papa had said "look inside Etienne's house," and then repeated "inside the house." What he, von Rumpel, is seeking will be inside the model.

Making the Radio

Using the materials he has found, Werner constructs a makeshift antenna and repairs the radio receiver. The first time he tries the earphones, they do not work. Above him, the bombed-out hotel "makes a series of unearthly groans."

After making some adjustments, Werner tries the earphones again. Suddenly he is transported back in time to when he was eight, back at Children's House and crouched next to Jutta, listening to static on his first radio.

As Volkheimer watches, Werner scans the radio frequencies. All that comes back to him is static.

In the Attic

Von Rumpel has looked in the wardrobe and hobbled away. Behind the false door, Marie-Laure tries to slow her heart. The only place for her to go now is up the seven-rung ladder and into the garret. Carefully, quietly she creeps up and then crawls across the attic floor. When she reaches the chimney at the far end, she sits, her knees hugged to her chest, and "tries to breathe through her skin. Soundlessly, like a snail." Outside she hears gunfire and an exploding shell.


The theme of memories that drive characters' choices and actions is prevalent in Part 6 and provides glimpses into the inner life, hidden thoughts, and pasts of several characters. Von Rumpel's presence in Etienne's house draws events closer to their climax and provides more puzzle pieces to fill gaps in the story.

Just before dying, Bernd tells his comrades the story of his last visit with his father. The tale is shaded with regret and profound loneliness. It reveals that Bernd is leaving the world with no connections to anyone. The one he wanted with his father never materialized, and he had no one else. He walked alone in the world. He ends up in an unmarked grave, buried beneath bricks. Bernd represents the countless dead with small but meaningful stories, who disappeared beneath the wreckage of war.

As Volkheimer buries Bernd, Werner works on repairing the radio in "an act of memory." As he works on testing, adjusting, and retesting the radio, he is eight again, back in Children's House with his sister. The comforting memory is suddenly merged with another of Herr Siedler and a great crimson Nazi banner. It is smooth and unsoiled; a banner not yet tattered by war and sullied by betrayal of all the glorious promises it represents.

Sergeant major von Rumpel is quite obviously ill by August 8, 1944, and limps badly as he searches each floor of Etienne's home for what he terms "a dollhouse." Memories overtake him as he sits in the sixth-floor bedroom and studies the carved model of Saint-Malo. The sergeant major's memories of playing with his daughter add a touch of humanity to his villainous character. This image of a man who would patiently play games with his child shows von Rumpel as he was before war twisted him into a servant of the Führer.

Von Rumpel's presence in the house indicates that he traced the connecting lines between the Natural History Museum, Daniel LeBlanc, Marie-Laure, and Etienne in Saint-Malo. From lines in Daniel's last letter to his daughter, von Rumpel has deduced that the Sea of Flames is hidden in the model. This means he has been intercepting Daniel's letters on their way to Marie-Laure. Just how he has concluded that this model of Saint-Malo hides the little house and the stone remains to be explained.

When von Rumpel enters the house, reason and quick thinking once again save Marie-Laure. Because the stranger does not call out but enters with caution and begins searching, she determines he is not friendly. Her keen ears also pick up on a limp, and she recalls "a German sergeant major with a dead voice." As readers do not yet know why she makes this connection, it suggests Marie-Laure and the treasure hunter have already met. Frightened as she is, Marie-Laure quickly makes sure she has everything of importance with her before creeping up to the wardrobe and through the secret door. The remembered voice of her father guides and steadies her. Once there she draws the door closed centimeter by centimeter, much like her beloved whelks close the door on their shells in time of danger. Now she is trapped and will have to fight or die if the stranger discovers her hiding place. Waiting and listening, she must consciously shut another trapdoor—this one in her mind—to push back a creeping terror that "rises from a place beyond thoughts."

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