Sophie's World | Study Guide

Jostein Gaarder

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Sophie's World | Chapter 28 : Kierkegaard | Summary

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Summary

Hilde feels increasingly on Sophie's side. She talks to her mother about her father's schedule before returning to reading.

Sophie learns about Søren Kierkegaard (1813–55), widely regarded to be the first existentialist. He thought a human is more than a child of his time, and "every single one of us is a unique individual who only lives once." Rather than find the Truth, which is "totally immaterial to man's existence," Kierkegaard thought it was important that an individual find meaningful truths for his own life. In regards to God it matters not whether God exists, but whether he exists for you. A devout Christian and theologian, Kierkegaard described three forms of life: the aesthetic stage (do what makes you happy), the ethical stage (do what is moral), and the religious stage (do what faith dictates). The last stage is the highest form of life and "the only path to redemption."

Analysis

When chatting with her mother about her father, Hilde seems to judge her father harshly for ordering people around and enjoying it too much. This feeds into her motivation for actively countering her father's authority.

In this chapter Gaarder has Alice from Alice in Wonderland come to the door and give Sophie two bottles—two forms of "truth serum." The red bottle is truth as the Romantics saw it—idealism and one big world spirit. It makes Sophie see that everything in her environment, including Alberto, is inside her own soul. The blue bottle separates everything out into individual worlds of boundless detail. This is individualism, Kierkegaard's answer to idealism. By making this comparison, Gaarder seems to lay out the form of Sophie's escape. Currently, she is trapped within the Romantic notion of a "creator God" (Albert) who holds all within himself. She needs to find a way to "drink the blue bottle" and discover the boundless world within herself that is separate from the "world spirit" of Sophie's World. If she follows Kierkegaard's stages, that way would entail a heavy dose of faith, perhaps even "jump[ing] into the open arms of a living God," although that may seem contradictory at this point.

Alberto points out that such a leap is "a matter of either/or." One takes the leap or one does not, and here he seems to suggest no one else can make that choice but Sophie. But how can she make an independent choice when Albert is literally writing all her actions? This once again raises the question of free will.

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