Sophie's World | Study Guide

Jostein Gaarder

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Sophie's World | Chapter 6 : Fate | Summary



Sophie's newest letter lands not in the mailbox, as she expected, but on the front step. Her questions involve the topic of fate. When pondering free will Sophie decides to take "fate" into her own hands and writes a letter to her mentor. After eating pizza and chatting with her mother, Sophie watches the mailbox until 1:00 a.m. She thinks she sees an old man wearing a beret drop a packet in it.

The packet talks about fatalism—"the belief that whatever happens is predestined." The ancient Greeks used to consult the oracle at Delphi and believed that "no man can escape his destiny." Until Hippocrates (460 BCE) the prevailing thought was that the gods controlled sickness and health.

After reading the packet Sophie finds a red scarf that belongs to Hilde under her bed.


Sophie had thought she was being very clever when she decided to watch the mailbox to discover the identity of her mentor. She based her reasoning on past behavior—her mentor had always delivered her letters to the mailbox, so common sense dictates he would do it again. However, her mentor is not strictly bound by past behavior. By having him switch up his delivery method, Gaarder illustrates how free will makes humans unpredictable and therefore the future unforeseeable.

In his letter Sophie's mentor admonishes her not to try to catch him because he will decide when and where they will meet. As the writer of the philosophy course, Alberto—and by extension, Albert—has given himself a position of control over the plot of the novel and over Sophie. By writing a letter to him and inviting him over for coffee, Sophie attempts to regain some agency. She desires to act instead of merely reacting. This is an important moment in her character arc, and it plants the seeds for her escape later in the novel.

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