The Philosophical Truth In ‘Sophie’s World’.

Watch out! Spoilers under way!

Readers tend to relate to characters quite quickly when first reading a book. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Harry, a Frodo, a Katniss or a Bella. We just love to get to know protagonists and creepily following them around on their adventures. We relate to their thinking, their emotions, and want them to succeed in whatever they do. We rarely stop our bonding process to remind ourselves that they are not real. We never say to ourselves “Harry is just a product of somebody’s imagination, much like the value of money or god”. Had I done that while reading Sophie’s World, my heart might have not been broken.


She is a Norwegian teenager being taught about philosophy by a middle-age man with an Italian name. She is a lovely, smart girl who makes the audience fall in love with her right from the beginning. She asks quirky questions, she makes relatable remarks; all in all, she is just very likeable. She is the protagonist of Sophie’s World, a worldwide bestseller and certainly one of the best introductions to philosophy ever written. She is Sophie Amundsen.

Sophie Amundsen is a 14-year-old teenager living in Norway. One day, she receives a letter informing her about a mysterious philosophy course she would be given. She isn’t sure about whether she wants a philosophy course but once she learns about Socrates, Plato and Aristotle she falls madly in love with philosophy and indulges in its teachings. As you follow the story and join Sophie in learning about the history of philosophy from Alberto Nox, an enigmatic savant, you start building a relationship to Alberto, his dog Hermes and, most of all, Sophie.

A very puzzling aspect of the story, however, is a man called Albert Knag. He keeps sending Sophie postcards addressed to his daughter, Hilde Moller Knag, which are postmarked on dates in the future. Over the course of the novel, the frequency of these messages increases and they can’t just be found on postcards anymore. At one point, Sophie even finds a message from Albert to Hilde on the inside of an unpeeled banana. As the reader, you realize something’s going on but you can’t really put your finger on it. Before you can make out what might happen next, a plot twist makes sure to leave you suspended in the air with drool dripping out of your half-opened mouth you just can’t seem to shut anymore. How?

Turns out, Sophie is just a character. She isn’t real. We did know this all along, right? But even in the book, she is just a character. She is the protagonist of Albert Knag’s birthday gift to his daughter Hilde. While Albert and Hilde are probably fictitious, as well, the loss of Sophie as the protagonist hit me in the guts like no death of any character in any book had ever done before. This raises a very interesting question: If we know that our favourite protagonists are fictitious, then why does it open up a void of emptiness in our hearts to be told that they are not real?


A similar thing happened to me when I turned 12-years-old. Either Dumbledore had forgotten to send me a letter of acceptance or, much more likely, I wasn’t a wizard and Hogwarts didn’t exist. My friends told me “It’s not real, bro” (or whatever 12-year-olds talk like). This experience made me reconsider the close relationship I developed with my favourite protagonists. Sophie being part of a book inside a book was much more difficult for me to overcome but, admittedly, very philosophical.

I’m still not ready to forgive Jostein Gaarder, the author, for doing this to the world but he sure made everyone realize just how much they love to fall in love with fiction!


PS: Remember to be as weird as you can possibly be.

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