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Sophie's World | Plot Summary

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Summary

Sophie

In a small town in Norway, 14-year-old Sophie Amundsen walks home from school one day in early May to find a note asking philosophical questions. Thus begins her course in Western philosophy, taught by a mysterious mentor who chooses not to reveal himself quite yet. This mentor sends a note with provocative questions followed by a packet of information about a certain philosophical period or a specific philosopher and his "project." She also gets postcards for someone named Hilde that Hilde's father has sent to Sophie for some unknown reason.

She learns how early humans made up myths to explain natural phenomena, and how early Greek Philosopher Xenophanes dismissed myths as purely human constructs. Next come the natural philosophers, who wanted to understand the processes of the natural world to liberate them from myth. She also learns Democritus was a materialist who proposed the atom theory.

After reading her packet on fate, Sophie finds a red scarf that belongs to Hilde. In his next letter, Alberto Knox reveals himself as her mentor, and from this point on, his dog, Hermes, delivers her packets. Alberto teaches Sophie about Socrates, who separated himself from the Sophists of the day by declaring that the "wisest is she who knows she does not know."

Next, Alberto sends Sophie a video in which he appears in ancient Athens, which seems impossible to her. Alberto introduces Plato, a student of Socrates who developed the Theory of Ideas.

Sophie takes a walk in the woods and comes upon the Major's Cabin. She discovers a magic mirror and Alberto living there. Alberto is annoyed he has to move, but he continues his lesson on Aristotle, known for founding logic and classifying the natural world. Next comes a lesson on Hellenism and Greece's dominance of thought during this period. After reading, Sophie has a mystical experience.

When Sophie does not hear from Alberto for several days, she and her friend Joanna return to the cabin and find a stack of postcards for Hilde. Sophie takes the magic mirror home with her. Finally, she gets her next lesson on the meeting between the polytheistic Indo-Europeans and the monotheistic Semites, including Jesus. Alberto teaches her about the philosophers of the Middle Ages, including St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Hildegard von Bingen.

Sophie sees an apparition of Hilde in the magic mirror and then dreams about meeting Hilde at the dock. She wakes up to find Hilde's crucifix. She meets Alberto at his apartment downtown and he tells her about the Renaissance and the Baroque and their key figures. He explains Descartes's dualist philosophy in great detail, and afterwards, Albert Knag addresses them directly via the computer program Laila.

Alberto next speaks about Baruch Spinoza, a monist who believed God is not a "puppeteer" but instead created natural laws that govern what man can do. He also teaches Sophie about the empiricist John Locke and his "blank slate" (tabula rasa) theory. Hermes the dog speaks to Sophie in human voice and Alberto thinks Albert has gone too far.

The next lessons are about the 18th-century British philosopher David Hume, who remained open-minded about natural laws, and George Berkeley, who thought humans only exist in the mind of God. Sophie discovers she exists only the mind of Albert, her "creator god."

Hilde

Norwegian schoolgirl Hilde receives a book from her father called Sophie's World on her 15th birthday, which is June 15th. Hilde loves the novel and starts to believe Sophie really exists. She looks in the magic mirror and is convinced her reflection winked at her. In the novel Alberto convinces Sophie they need to continue their course to "escape from" Albert. They also appeal to Hilde for help. They go over the Enlightenment, a period where philosophers wanted to use reason to bring about a new age. Next they cover Immanuel Kant and his desire to unify empirical and rational thought. They also review romanticism's view of the "world spirit" and its adherents' belief they could be "creator gods." Finally, they cover Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and his dialectical view of history, and Søren Kierkegaard's belief that meaning is found in the individual.

Hilde figures out a way she can get back at her father. Sophie then learns that whereas past philosophers' main goal was to interpret the world, Karl Marx wanted to change it. Alberto also covers Charles Darwin, who put forth his theory of evolution in On the Origin of Species, and Sigmund Freud, who analyzed dreams and the unconscious. They also discuss John Paul Sartre and surrealism. Sophie distracts Albert while Alberto works on his plan to escape Albert's clutches.

Finally, Midsummer's Eve arrives and guests show up in Sophie's garden for her party. After some increasingly absurd occurrences, Sophie and Albert disappear. This is the end of Sophie's World.

Hilde carries out her plan at the Copenhagen airport while her father is changing planes. He receives her notes and feels like he is being watched. He comes home and greets Hilde at the dock, just like in Sophie's dream. Hilde thinks she can "feel" Sophie, who is now one of the invisible people in her world. Albert tells his daughter about the Big Bang, and Sophie attempts to intervene in Hilde's world. Sophie finally succeeds in causing the rowboat to drift. Hilde suggests she and her father retrieve the rowboat together.

Sophie's World Plot Diagram

ClimaxFalling ActionRising ActionIntroductionResolution2134675

Introduction

1 Sophie gets a mysterious note about philosophy.

Rising Action

2 Alberto introduces himself as Sophie's mentor.

3 Sophie discovers she is fictional, created by Albert Knag.

4 Hilde receives her birthday present, Sophie's World.

Climax

5 Wanting to become real, Sophie enlists Hilde's help.

Falling Action

6 Alberto and Sophie escape their fictional reality.

Resolution

7 Sophie moves an object in the real world.

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