Sophie's World | Study Guide

Jostein Gaarder

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Course Hero. "Sophie's World Study Guide." October 25, 2017. Accessed August 20, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Sophies-World/.

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Sophie's World | Chapter 20 : Locke | Summary

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Summary

Sophie gets home late, and her mother is upset so Sophie shows her the video Alberto gave her of Athens. Sophie's mother recognizes Alberto as the major who lived in the cabin 15 years before, but he hasn't aged.

Sophie does not hear from Alberto for two whole weeks. He is not at home, but she finds a birthday note on the door for Hilde announcing that "the great turning point is at hand."

The next day Sophie follows Hermes to Alberto's, and on the way, Hermes speaks in a human voice to her. Once she arrives Alberto begins his lesson on the empiricists, starting with John Locke (1632–1704). Locke's mission was to clarify the origins of man's ideas and whether man can rely on his senses to know the truth. Locke proposed man is born as an empty slate (tabula rasa), and everything man knows, he learns via sensation (simple) and reflection (complex). While primary sensations are constant, secondary sensations (like color and taste) vary by person, so senses may not be entirely reliable.

Analysis

Sophie tells her mother Albert "may be controlling the whole world." This must sound preposterous to Helene, but Albert is, in fact, controlling their whole world. This scene is also the reader's first hint, other than the similarity of their names, that Alberto may be an avatar for Albert.

Albert has sent his birthday wishes to Hilde in many odd ways over the preceding chapters, but Hermes speaking in a human voice cannot be rationalized away as anything other than fantasy. It should be clear to the reader, at least by now, that Sophie's world in Sophie's World is not the real world.

When discussing Locke, Alberto says Locke brought up the question of "whether the world really is the way we perceive it." This is an especially pertinent question for Sophie. Locke felt that all true knowledge needed to be traced back to simple sensations and that a person must be wary of the complex reflections they create from them. There is a marked difference between objective realities and subjective ones. So the reader may ask what this means for Sophie's world. As an imaginary world, Sophie's World was born of the complex thought processes in Albert's head; it is not an objective reality, but rather a subjective one. Sophie can feel it because she is inside it, but Hilde (and the reader) has a different experience as someone outside it.

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