VCE Essay prompts: All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

Looking for practice essay prompts for All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr? Here are some practice prompts to help you prepare for the text response essay!

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Science / arts / human accomplishments 

  • All the Light We Cannot See explores the human capacity to create, preserve and destroy. Discuss.
  • All the Light We Cannot See explores the potential of science to improve humanity. Do you agree?
  • ‘Open your eyes and see what you can see with them before they close forever.’ In the All the Light We Cannot See is a hopeful novel. Discuss. 
  • Doerr shows that the search for knowledge can bring both hope and purpose to life. Discuss.
  • “Things are just things. Stories are just stories.” How does Doerr explore the differences between science and imagination?
  • Science and the arts provide more good than harm for the characters in All the Light We Cannot See. Discuss.
  • To what extent does reason triumph over superstition and propaganda in All the Light We Cannot See?
  • ‘Things are just things. Stories are just stories.’ How does Doerr explore the differences between science and imagination? 
  • All the Light We Cannot See explores the human capacity to create, preserve and destroy. Discuss. (VCAA 2019)

War / morality / conscience / truth

  • “I know you are very smart at keeping yourself safe.” All the Light We Cannot See, keeping safe is not the main consideration. Discuss.
  • All the Light We Cannot See is about the tension between greed and humanity. Discuss.
  • The novel All the Light We Cannot See suggests that what is most important is not always what can be seen. Discuss.
  • All the Light We Cannot See , Doerr explores what it means to act morally. Discuss.
  • All the Light We Cannot See shows that propaganda destroys lives. Discuss.
  • Doctor Geffard says: “Goodness, more than anything else, is what lasts.” Doerr’s novel is optimistic in its representation of humanity. Do you agree?
  • The novel reveals the difficulty of following one’s conscience when a totalitarian regime is in control. Discuss.
  • All the characters in All the Light We Cannot See are selfish. Do you agree? 
  • To what extent does Doerr’s novel warn us against imorality and selfishness?
  • Inner strength as shown in All the Light We Cannot See is what protects Doerr’s characters humanity. Discuss. 
  • None of the characters in All the Light We Cannot See are deserving of sympathy. Do you agree? 
  • All the Light We Cannot See examines how war brings out the best and worst in humanity. Discuss. 

Interconnectedness

  • All the Light We Cannot See suggests that people are more connected than they think. Discuss.

Fate / Free will 

  • In All the Light We Cannot See, Doerr suggests that free will is rare and comes at a price. Discuss.
  • “That the house stand while so many others have been destroyed is evidence enough.” How does Anthony Doerr demonstrate that life is a combination both of destiny and of free will?
  • All the Light We Cannot See is a novel about actions and consequences. Discuss.
  • The characters in All the Light We Cannot See lack agency. Do you agree?

Character development / identity / difference 

  • In the novel, being different is an advantage. Do you agree?
  • Ultimately, Marie-Laure fails to protect herself in All the Light We Cannot See. Do you agree? 
  • In the novel, being different is an advantage. Do you agree? (VCAA 2019)
  • To what extent does Werner change throughout the novel?
  • “A real diamond, his father used to say, is never entirely free of inclusions. A real diamond is never perfect.” All the Light We Cannot See examines the way in which flawed individuals can achieve great things. Discuss.
  • All the Light We Cannot See demonstrates the importance of human connections, even amidst the violence of war. Do you agree?
  • All the characters in All the Light We Cannot See are self centred. To what extent do you agree?
  • The events and relationships in the novel suggest that the rumours about the Sea of Flames are true. Discuss
  • Jutta warns that Werner will become “just like Hans and Herribert”. Compared to other characters, to what extent does Werner change during the novel?
  • All the Light We Cannot See is a novel about actions and consequences. Do you agree?
  • To what extent are characters victims rather than perpetrators in All the Light We Cannot See?
  • There are no heroes and villains in Doerr’s novel, only ordinary people. Do you agree?
  • Despite his position in a regime that controls and corrupts, Werner puts his education and knowledge to good use. To what extent do you agree?
  • ‘Who knew love could kill you?’ All the Light We Cannot See is a love story. Discuss. 
  • There are no heroes or villains in Doerr’s novel, only ordinary people. Do you agree? 

Narrative structure

  • How does the author use imagery to construct characters and ideas in All the Light We Cannot See?
  • How does Doerr use multiple time frames and narrative voices to create suspense? 
  • ‘To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness.’ Marie-Laure’s perspective is crucial in understanding the novel as a whole. Do you agree?

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