Sophie's World | Study Guide

Jostein Gaarder

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Sophie's World | Chapter 10 : The Major's Cabin | Summary



Because her mother sleeps late on Sundays, Sophie decides to get up early and continue her search for Alberto. She walks deeper and deeper into the woods until she comes upon a red cabin and a lake. She must row a boat across the lake to get to the cabin. She knocks, no one answers, but she enters anyway and observes that someone lives there. She notices two almost identical paintings, one of Berkeley and one of Bjerkely. She also finds a dog's bowl and golden fur on blankets and deduces this must be the home of Alberto and Hermes.

Looking into a mirror, she is startled when her reflection closes both eyes. She also finds Hilde's ID card and an envelope with her name on it, which she takes. Then she hears a dog barking and escapes before she is caught. At home, she confesses everything to her mother who tells her that the cabin is called the Major's Cabin. Sophie writes another letter to Alberto apologizing for breaking into his home.


When she commandeers the boat to approach the cabin, Sophie notes she is "startled at her own boldness." She feels like there is a greater force at work "impelling" her to be so daring. And, of course, she is correct. This is another one of Gaarder's clues that Sophie is a fictional character, controlled by the whims of her author and his need for her to do what the plot dictates. In all practical terms, Sophie has merely had the illusion of free will so far.

The interplay with the mirror is an important moment in the story. For one, Sophie reasons that her senses must be wrong—she cannot really be seeing what she thinks she is seeing. This disconnect between sensory perception and reason is the same issue that Plato and the other Greek philosophers struggled with. In this way, Sophie's life—her "world"—has become a figurative mirror to the philosophy she is studying.

Sophie is naturally freaked out by the way her reflection acts independently from her, almost as though her mirror image is trapped in another world. She must then wonder who her mirror image represents. If it is meant to be Hilde, then Sophie would have noticed that Hilde looked exactly like her when she saw Hilde's photo on her school ID card. Sophie thinks it is more likely meant to represent her autonomous self, the self she is meant to become through her philosophical journey. Sophie imagines her mirror image means to tell her, "I can see you, Sophie. I am in here, on the other side." It is as if her autonomous self is daring Sophie to come through and find her, to become her. But Sophie is clearly not ready yet. She still has much to learn.

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