Sophie's World | Study Guide

Jostein Gaarder

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Sophie's World | Chapter 31 : Freud | Summary

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Summary

Hilde delays breakfast to go out rowing on the lake to burn off her anger. Afterwards, she spends the day with her mother and does not read again until evening.

Alberto gives his next lesson to Sophie on Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), a medical doctor who could also be described as a cultural philosopher. Freud took the nascent field of psychoanalysis to new levels of respectability and popularity. He proposed that dreams are a form of wish fulfillment and suggested individuals experience tension between what they want and what society demands. In Freud's view the human mind is made up of the id (pleasure principle), the ego (reality principle), and the superego (moral expectations). According to Freud the conscious makes up only a small part of the mind. Instead, the preconscious (easy to recall memories) and unconscious (repressed memories) dominate the workings of the mind. The unconscious often makes itself known with Freudian slips of the tongue (parapraxes). Artists became fascinated with the concept of the unconscious and used it to create surrealist art in which images of dreams found their way onto the canvas or the page.

Because Albert Knag does not know his own unconscious, Alberto thinks he and Sophie can use that to their advantage. He charges Sophie with distracting Albert while he explores his unconscious.

Analysis

While rowing, Hilde compares the idea of her being "nothing but a conglomeration of protein compounds" to the idea of Sophie being "no more than electromagnetic impulses in her father's brain," and dislikes both. Because, she says to herself: "she was more than that. She was Hilde Møller Knag." This may be the logical argument Hilde uses, at least in her own mind, to "prove" Sophie is real. Hilde knows she herself is real, so Sophie must be, too.

Alberto proposes that Freud's work on the unconscious "is necessary to an understanding of what a human being is." A human being is more than his conscious, thinking mind; he is also controlled by subliminal, subconscious impulses. Alberto believes he and Sophie can use Albert's unconscious to escape, because it's clear, with the popping up of figures like the Emperor With No Clothes in their reality, that the door between Albert's conscious and unconscious has been "left ajar."

Freud's interpretation of dreaming is also a key element to understanding Sophie's World. The surrealist art movement dissolved "the boundaries between dream and reality," which is exactly what Gaarder is demonstrating with Sophie and Hilde's shared dreams. Somehow, perhaps via the magic mirror, Sophie and Hilde have formed a connection that allows them to transcend the barrier between them.

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