Sophie's World | Study Guide

Jostein Gaarder

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Sophie's World | Chapter 26 : Romanticism | Summary



Hilde reads Sophie's next lesson about Romanticism, Europe's last unified epoch originating in the late 18th century. But first she sees Sophie and Joanna have created an invitation for a Midsummer's Eve party. The Romantics viewed art as being able to provide something that philosophy cannot express. The German poet Schiller thought that playing allowed man to be free because only then does he create his own rules. Romantics yearned to understand nature's mysteries. Schelling (1775–1854) coined the term "world spirit," an expression of both the soul and physical reality. World spirit raises the idea that "the path of mystery leads inwards."

Sophie and Alberto discuss possibilities to escape Albert's creation. Aladdin appears, rubs a lamp, and a genie in the guise of Albert appears to wish Hilde a happy birthday. Alberto claims, in doing so, Albert has revealed that his lack of sleep may be the key to his undoing.


This chapter on Romanticism gets to the crux of Gaarder's whole purpose for writing Sophie's World, and he inserts himself into the text in order to elucidate this goal. Alberto and Sophie discuss whether Hilde and Albert are part of a "higher mind," wherein Alberto points out that if this is case, then that "higher mind" (Gaarder) has allowed the conversation because "he wishes to emphasize that he, too, is a helpless shadow," and that Sophie's World "is in reality a textbook on philosophy." This is what the Romanticists called "romantic irony"—a literary technique in which the author reminds readers that it is the author who manipulates the fictional universe. Gaarder uses romantic irony throughout this chapter, not only in his direct address, but also in the way he formats Alberto and Sophie's conversation by having Alberto say, "Next section!" at the end of sections.

One could argue that Sophie's World is a work of art in the Romantic tradition. The Romantics compared artists to gods who could "create his own reality" in the same way that Albert does for Sophie and Gaarder does for Albert. The basis for Sophie finding Hilde's items is clearly found in Romantic poet Coleridge's work, which Alberto paraphrases for Sophie. It's about dreaming of plucking a flower and then awaking to find that flower in reality. And even though Alberto says in an earlier chapter that philosophy is not a fairy tale, Gaarder does use elements of fairy tale to present his work on philosophy because fairy tales give a writer "full scope to explore his own creativity," meaning a writer can "play God to a fictional universe."

But therein also lies Alberto's plan to escape Albert's reality, because the Romantics believed "the creative act was not always completely conscious." A writer might go into something like a trance where an "innate force" takes over. Alberto's plan is to find these weak moments in Albert's control of his creative process and take advantage of them to contact Hilde and elicit her help. Sophie also declares her intention to "run away from the book and go [her] own way."

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