Sophie's World | Study Guide

Jostein Gaarder

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Sophie's World | Chapter 29 : Marx | Summary



Hilde calls a friend in Copenhagen to carry out a plan while her father is changing planes at the airport. She continues to read.

Sophie gets a letter that appears to be from Albert. The next day she and Joanna plan the party. Alberto calls for her next lesson, which is on Karl Marx (1818–83), a historical materialist and the father of socialism. On her way to Alberto, she runs into Ebenezer Scrooge (a miserly capitalist from a Christmas story by Charles Dickens) and the Little Match Girl (a communist).

Alberto tells her Marx did not simply want to interpret the world, like previous philosophers had, he wanted to change it. Marx identified that society had a basis (material relations) and a superstructure (spiritual relations) that interacted and affected each other. The foundations of society are the conditions of production (natural resources), the means of production (tools), and the mode of production (division of labor). Because those in charge of production do not give up their power voluntarily, "change can only come about though revolution." Marx envisioned a socialist society run by workers in which the foundation of labor and economic policy is "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."


It is no coincidence Hilde sets her "revolution" against her father in motion during the chapter on Marx. One could consider Sophie and Alberto workers who are laboring for Albert's novel, which is external to them. The novel is about them, but it does not belong to them. Alberto even complains about their state of being, calling it "mental captivity we have lived in for much too long." Marx might say they have become alienated from their "work" within the novel, and therefore alien to themselves. They are struggling with the nature of their existence and their identity.

Do they exist only as entertainment and as a birthday present for Hilde? Sophie and Alberto's "work" within the novel stands to benefit Hilde and Albert, but what do Sophie and Alberto get out of it? Are they being exploited? And if so, what does Albert owe them for their "work"? Gaarder seems to be suggesting that Sophie and Alberto need to find a way to claim the novel for themselves in order to feel like they own their "work," and, by extension, themselves.

In the chapter on Hegel, Alberto seemed to propose a course of action via subtext. In this chapter he openly states these intentions to "be tricky" and work "between the lines" of Albert's novel as he writes, because "nothing that is in print can ... escape his attention."

Alberto is not only more educated in philosophy, he also knows more about the nature of their reality (and their creator) than Sophie does. He even teases that he and Sophie "are more closely linked to each other" than they appear.

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