Sophie’s World

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Albert Knag / The Major Character Analysis

Hilde Møller Knag’s father Albert Knag is an intelligent, quick-witted man, who understands the importance of teaching his daughter the history of Western philosophy. Even during the course of his work for the United Nations in Lebanon, he continues to think of his daughter’s education, sending her a work called Sophie’s World, in which a girl named Sophie learns about philosophy. Albert uses Sophie’s World to emphasize questions of epistemology: the study of what is and isn’t real. In spite of—or perhaps as evidenced by—his unorthodox style of child rearing, Albert sincerely loves his daughter, and as the novel closes, he’s reunited with her in Scandinavia after many months of traveling abroad.

Albert Knag / The Major Quotes in Sophie’s World

The Sophie’s World quotes below are all either spoken by Albert Knag / The Major or refer to Albert Knag / The Major . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Farrar, Strauss and Giroux edition of Sophie’s World published in 2007.
Chapter 34 Quotes

Major Albert Knag’s first impulse was to smile. But he did not appreciate being manipulated in this manner. He had always liked to be in charge of his own life. Now this little vixen in Lillesand was directing his movements in Kastrup Airport! How had she managed that?

Related Characters: Hilde Møller Knag , Albert Knag / The Major
Page Number: 485
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Albert Knag, the author of the book-within-the-book, returns from his long tour of the Middle East. Knag, the father of Hilde, is surprised to find that someone (Hilde, we recognize) is manipulating his environment: someone has placed elaborate banners at his airport terminal and slipped highly specific messages into his seat on the airplane. The effect of Hilde’s manipulation is to make Knag question the reality of his world—he wonders if he, like Sophie, might be a character trapped in someone else’s novel—just as Hilde has intended. It’s important to note that Hilde is trying to give her father a taste of his own medicine: Albert has manipulated the characters in Sophie’s World for his own amusement; now, he finds himself being manipulated and disoriented. Hilde’s actions underscore the point that no human being is completely free in the conventional sense. Perhaps we’re all just characters in someone else’s “book”; i.e., our actions have been predetermined by some divine entity (whether it be a Christian God or a more abstract force of the kind hypothesized by Spinoza).

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“You’ve become a grown woman, Hilde!”
“And you’ve become a real writer.”
Hilde wiped away her tears.
“Shall we say we’re quits?” she asked.
“We’re quits.”

Related Characters: Hilde Møller Knag (speaker), Albert Knag / The Major (speaker)
Page Number: 495
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Hilde reunites with her father, Albert—the man who's been writing her letters about philosophy, assembled into the book Sophie's World. Hilde and Albert compliment each other for their ingenuity. Hilde compliments Albert for writing Sophie's World; Albert praises Hilde for mastering philosophy and for engineering a series of pranks that disoriented him, proving that she'd truly understood his lessons in epistemology and ontology.

Albert and Hilde's exchange reinforces the point that Sophie's World is a coming-of-age story: over the course of the novel, Sophie learns to channel her frustration and anxiety into abstract thinking. In the process she becomes a more mature, confident thinker—or as her father puts it, philosophy helps her become a grown woman.

Chapter 35 Quotes

They jumped out of the car and ran down the garden.
They tried to loosen the rope that was made fast in a metal ring. But they could not even lift one end.
“It’s as good as nailed down,” said Alberto.
“We’ve got plenty of time.”
“A true philosopher must never give up. If we could just... get it loose …”

Related Characters: Sophie Amundsen (speaker), Alberto Knox (speaker), Hilde Møller Knag , Albert Knag / The Major
Page Number: 506
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of Sophie's World, Sophie and Alberto—fictional characters who've somehow attained a degree of independence from their creator—find themselves in a strange world. Everything around them, including people, is frozen. In spite of the hopelessness of their situation, Sophie and Alberto try to move a metal ring, which is attached to a boat near to where Hilde and Albert are sitting. Sophie is persistent in her attempts to the move the ring—in spite of the unlikelihood of moving the ring, she keeps trying, confident that philosophers never give up.

In all, the novel ends on a note of cautious optimism. Sophie seems to have no chance of moving the ring, but her intellectual training gives her hope and confidence. Gaarder suggests that philosophy, in addition to being an important area of study, can also be something like a religion for its students: it can provide people with hope and confidence in their own abilities. As the novel began, Sophie was a timid, shy young girl—now, with philosophy as her weapon, she's brave and determined.

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Albert Knag / The Major Character Timeline in Sophie’s World

The timeline below shows where the character Albert Knag / The Major appears in Sophie’s World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 10: The Major’s Cabin
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...on the floor that matches the color of Hermes’ fur. She realizes that Hermes and Alberto live in the cabin. Sophie notices a wallet lying on a table. It contains a... (full context)
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...but Mom cuts her off. Mom explains that the cabin Sophie visited is called the Major’s Cabin—a crazy old military man used to live there, years ago. (full context)
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Sophie writes Alberto a letter in which she admits that it was she who visited the cabin. She... (full context)
Chapter 16: The Renaissance
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...asking for Sophie’s whereabouts. Sophie convinces Joanna not to tell anyone about her meeting with Alberto in the church. Then, she leaves Joanna’s house and returns to her own. (full context)
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...her dream. She also notes that Hilde’s father (in the dream) looked a lot like Alberto Knox. She goes downstairs and greets Mom. Mom tells Sophie that a strange dog is... (full context)
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...up many flights of stairs, until she’s in the attic. There, she’s surprised to find Alberto Knox, wearing a yellow jacket with padded shoulders. Sophie demands that Alberto explain how Hilde’scrucifix... (full context)
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Alberto directs Sophie’s attention to the attic, which is full of beautiful old books. He explains... (full context)
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Alberto next begins to tell Sophie about the Renaissance, the period of European history following the... (full context)
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Alberto tells Sophie more about Galileo, one of the key figures of the Renaissance. Galileo was... (full context)
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Alberto goes on to tell Sophie about the history of religion during the Renaissance. During this... (full context)
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Sophie realizes that it’s already4 o’clock—her mother must be missing her. Alberto nods and says goodbye to Sophie, calling her “Hilde.” Sophie challenges Alberto on this, and... (full context)
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Sophie leaves Alberto and begins heading home. Because she has no money, she’ll have to walk home instead... (full context)
Chapter 18: Descartes
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Alberto begins telling Sophie about Descartes. Descartes was born in 1596, and quickly became interested in... (full context)
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...would exist in the real world, as well as in the human mind. Therefore, God exists.Alberto admits that this isn’t very solid logic—many people have criticized Descartes on this count. (full context)
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Sophie is particularly struck when Alberto tells her that Descartes compared the human body to a machine. Descartes was a talented... (full context)
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Alberto tells Sophie to sit in front of a computer in the attic. When Sophie does... (full context)
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...computer, she decides to search, “Knag.” The computer begins to type in the person of MajorAlbert Knag. Alberto mutters, “The rat has sneaked onto the hard disc.”“Albert Knag” types a birthday... (full context)
Chapter 20: Locke
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Sophie gets back to her house and tells Mom that she’s been visiting Alberto. Mom tells Sophie she checked the phonebook and couldn’t find anyone by that name in... (full context)
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Two weeks go by. Sophie goes to Alberto’s apartment across town. Outside, she finds another note wishing Hilde a happy birthday. In the... (full context)
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...cut ahead to June 14. Hermes shows up at Sophie’s house and leads her toward Alberto’s apartment once again. Suddenly, Sophie hears a voice, wishing her a happy birthday. She wonders... (full context)
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Inside, Sophie finds Alberto. Sophie explains some of the odd events that have happened to her lately, but Alberto... (full context)
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Locke, Alberto continues, wasn’t as different from Descartes as he’s sometimes said to be. He did think... (full context)
Chapter 22: Berkeley
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Alberto and Sophie are still in Alberto’s apartment. They stare out the window and see an... (full context)
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Alberto moves on to discuss George Berkeley with Sophie. Berkeley was an Irish bishop and philosopher.... (full context)
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...strange things that have been happening to her lately: Hilde’s father seems to be everywhere. ThenAlbertosuddenly addresses Sophie as “Hilde,” and explains that he’s always known Sophie’s true name is Hilde.... (full context)
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Albertothen tells Sophie “Happy birthday, Hilde!” and suddenly it starts to storm outside. Sophie leaves Alberto... (full context)
Chapter 23: Bjerkeley
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...blonde hair and green eyes. The mirror reminds Hilde of her father, whose name is Albert Knag. He used to keep the mirror in his studio—the place where he once tried... (full context)
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Suddenly, Hilde notices a box on her table—perhaps a birthday present from Albert. Inside, she finds an ordinary three-ring binder. Inside the binder, there’s a book, titled Sophie’s... (full context)
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...but quickly resumes reading. She reads the section in which Sophie visits the Acropolis with Alberto. Hilde recalls that her father, during his time with the UN, suggested that the UN... (full context)
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Then Hildereads about Sophie’s dream—where Sophie sees Albert Knag returning to Hilde’s home, weeks in the future. Hilde knows that Sophie is an... (full context)
Chapter 24: The Enlightenment
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After a short conversation with her mother,Hilde reads about Sophie’s discussions with Alberto in the church. She recognizes that her father is making a point about the relativity... (full context)
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The phone rings in Sophie’s World, and Sophie picks it up. It’s Alberto, who explains to Sophie that he and she may have only been invented for the... (full context)
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Alberto suggests something to Sophie—maybe there is a way for them to exercise free will after... (full context)
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Hilde finishes reading the chapter of Sophie’s World. She finds it odd that Sophie and Alberto are becoming “aware” of their fictional nature. Hilde has a strange feeling that Sophie and... (full context)
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...to Hilde. In the letter addressed to her, Sophie reads about the lesson plan that Alberto will shortly present to her, structured around the Enlightenment. Clearly, the major is watching her... (full context)
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Sophie and Alberto meet up in the major’s cabin, where Alberto dives into talking about the Enlightenment. The... (full context)
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...the universal rights of man. Sophie is curious about the Enlightenment’s attitude toward women’s rights. Alberto explains that Enlightenment philosophers were often progressive about women’s rights. One of the key philosophers... (full context)
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Sophie directs Alberto’s attention to the pictures of Berkeley and Bjerkely. She suggests that Hilde “lives” somewhere in... (full context)
Chapter 25: Kant
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Albert Knag, Hilde’s father, calls Hilde in her house to wish her a happy birthday. He... (full context)
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Hilde falls asleep reading from her book. In the book, Sophie talks with Alberto in the attic. Alberto moves on to tell Sophie about the life of Immanuel Kant.... (full context)
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...is neither a solely abstract concept, nor is it strictly material. To illustrate Kant’s point, Alberto gives Sophie a pair of colored glasses. The glasses let Sophie see the world, but... (full context)
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...departs. Sophie yells that Little Red Riding Hood should look out for the wolf, but Alberto assures her that this warning accomplishes nothing.Sophie’s letter says, “If the human brain was simple... (full context)
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Alberto continues with his discussion of Kant’s morality. Kant believed that the difference between right and... (full context)
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...one who obeys his sense of right and wrong.Sophie finds this difficult to grasp, but Alberto insists, “A mere bagatelle.” (full context)
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It’s almost time for Sophie to leave. Before Sophie leaves, Alberto has an idea. If Kant is correct, Sophie and Alberto will be exercising freedom by... (full context)
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Sophie leaves Alberto and walks through the forest. While she’s there, she notices a figure—Winnie the Pooh. Pooh... (full context)
Chapter 26: Romanticism
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Next Tuesday, Sophie gets a call from Alberto Knox, who explains that he’s received her invitation—he doesn’t say how. He reminds Sophie that... (full context)
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Alberto and Sophie meet up in the major’s cabin that afternoon. Alberto explains that he’s going... (full context)
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Alberto mentions Lord Byron, one of the key English Romantic poets. Another was Novalis, who fell... (full context)
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Alberto moves on with his history of Romanticism, and Sophie listens eagerly—she’svery interested in Romanticism. The... (full context)
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...lived and worked—their compilations of fairy tales were monuments to their respective cultures. In general, Alberto claims, the fairy tale is the ideal Romantic form—a space in which the author can... (full context)
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Alberto continues talking about fairy tales. In the Romantic era, writers wrote works that acknowledged their... (full context)
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A young boy carrying an oil lamp runs up to Alberto and Sophie, claiming that his name is Aladdin, from Lebanon. Aladdin rubs his lamp, and... (full context)
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Sophie tells Alberto that she’s had enough of being controlled by the major—she’s going to run away. Alberto... (full context)
Chapter 28: Kierkegaard
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...inspired her to play tricks on her father. Hilde feels as if she, Sophie, and Alberto are on the same “team,” while her father is their opponent. (full context)
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Hilde continues reading. In her book, Sophie and Alberto hear a knock at the door. Sophie opens the door and finds Alice from Alice... (full context)
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...in the world. The rest of the room seems alien to her—she doesn’t even recognize Alberto anymore. Alberto explains to Sophie that she’s drunk from the bottle of Idealism, the Hegelian... (full context)
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Alberto tries to explain how Kierkegaard’s ideas work in practice. For Kierkegaard, there is no universal... (full context)
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The religious human being has chosen to worship God instead of pleasure or morality. Alberto doesn’t explain what a religious life would look like. However, he stresses that Kierkegaard is... (full context)
Chapter 29: Marx
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Hilde finishes reading the chapter on Kierkegaard. Inspired by Sophie and Alberto, she decides to give her father a “scare” when he returns from Lebanon. She calls... (full context)
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...that the lie comes from “some guiding spirit”) and says that she’s told her friend Alberto that she collects stamps and postmarks. (full context)
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Two days before Midsummer Eve (June 21), Alberto calls Sophie. Alberto tells Sophie that he’s finally found “a way out.” Since Alberto and... (full context)
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Sophie proceeds to the cabin, where she finds Alberto waiting for her. She explains her encounter with Scrooge and the match girl, andAlberto explains... (full context)
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Alberto begins by clarifying the difference between Marx and Hegel. Hegel believed that history was a... (full context)
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Marx’s critique of capitalism was complicated, but Alberto tries to summarize it for Sophie. In a typical capitalist society, the proletariat produced commodities—goods,... (full context)
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...in Russia, led by Vladimir Lenin and later Josef Stalin, was criticized for its brutality. Alberto says that it would be unreasonable to blame Marx for Stalin’s actions, but he also... (full context)
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Alberto concludes his lesson on Marx by telling Sophie about a thought experiment that was designed... (full context)
Chapter 31: Freud
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...by the implications of Darwinism. Furthermore, she finds it hard to believe that Sophie and Albertoare just figments of her father’s imagination. One could also say that she, Hilde, is just... (full context)
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In the evening, Hilde begins reading again. In the book, Sophie and Alberto are standing outside the major’s cabin, talking to a naked man—the Emperor. The Emperor acts... (full context)
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Alberto takes a step back to describe how Freud came to his surprising conclusions. As a... (full context)
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...what his patients’ secretly desired, and how they could satisfy these desires in safe, controllable ways.Alberto gives an example: a man dreams that he receives two balloons from his female cousin.... (full context)
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...great art. Sometimes, Surrealists tried to paint and draw without using their conscious minds at all.Alberto suggests that creativity is a struggle between reason and imagination. (full context)
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...something outside the cabin—a group of Disney figures, such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Alberto finds this sad—he and Sophie are just “helpless victims” of the major. Alberto points out... (full context)
Chapter 32: Our Own Time
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...techniques that Freud pioneered. She wonders if she’s repressing anything important. She also wonders what Alberto is planning to do to her father. She considers reading the final page of the... (full context)
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...is alone again, she resumes reading Sophie’s World. In the book, Sophie has left the major’s cabin. She tries to “hold the major’s attention,” as Alberto instructed her. She jumps around,... (full context)
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...She and Mom prepare for Sophie’s garden party the next day. Mom asks Sophie if Alberto is planning to come to the party, and Sophie says he’ll be there. The next... (full context)
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At the Café Pierre, Sophie waits for Alberto. She feels like a real adult—older than her years. The people in the café seem... (full context)
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One important strain of modern philosophy, Alberto begins, is existentialism. Existentialism is the belief that man’s existential situation must be the starting... (full context)
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...His life-long friend and companion was Simone de Beauvoir. Sophie is glad to hear that Alberto is finally talking about a female philosopher. Sartre started from the premise that “Existentialism is... (full context)
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Alberto tries to clarify what Sartre meant when he claimedthat “existence precedes essence.” Sartre believed that... (full context)
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Alberto admits that Sartre’s view of life can be depressing. And yet Sartre wasn’t a nihilist—he... (full context)
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...around her; an escaped criminal might imagine that he sees police officers all around him. Albertothen admits that he was late for his meeting with Sophie on purpose, because hewanted Sophie... (full context)
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Alberto goes on to describe the writings of Simone de Beauvoir, an Existentialist who tried to... (full context)
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Alberto describes the influence of Existentialism on literature. Writers like Albert Camus and Samuel Beckett wrote... (full context)
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Alberto buys a Coke for Sophie and a coffee for himself. When he’s purchased both items,... (full context)
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...some new problems that philosophers try to solve. Philosophy now studies animal rights, environmental decay, etc.Albertosuggests that the world might have arrived at the “end of history”—a period in which there... (full context)
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Alberto and Sophie walk down the street. As they walk by a store, Sophie sees something... (full context)
Chapter 33: The Garden Party
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...garden party. Mom asks Sophie about the book she’s bought, a book titledSophie’s World, by Albert Knag. Sophie claims that Alberto gave her the book. Mom says that she read the... (full context)
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...Helene—see a group of demonstrators walking down the street. The demonstrators carry signs saying, “The major is at hand” and “More power to the UN.” Helene can’t understand what this demonstration... (full context)
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...Mercedes) and Sophie’s classmates, Jeremy and David. Soon, the only guest who hasn’t arrived is Alberto.A short while later,Albertoarrives, carrying a bouquet of 15 red roses. Helene introduces Alberto to everyone... (full context)
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Alberto rises—he wants to make a speech as well. He tells the crowd that Sophie has... (full context)
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Alberto turns to Sophie and says, “It’s time.” Helene asks Sophie if Sophie is planning on... (full context)
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...into a tree. Sophie remembers a time when the house was her Garden of Eden—now, Alberto reminds her, she’s being “driven out.” Alberto places his hand on Sophie’s shoulder and shouts,... (full context)
Chapter 34: Counterpoint
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Hilde sits in bed—the story of Sophie and Alberto is over. But what has actually happened to them? Hilde wonders if it’s her job... (full context)
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We cut back toAlberto and Sophie, whotry to avoid the major by sneaking into the cabin.Meanwhile Hilde spends the... (full context)
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In an unidentified story,Alberto and Sophie arrive in Oslo. Alberto assures Sophie that they’re outside the major’s control now.... (full context)
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The chapter “cuts” abruptly. Albert Knag, we’re told, is waiting at the airport. When he gets back home, he’s going... (full context)
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Albert goes to buy some food at the airport. At the store, he notices a letter... (full context)
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The chapter cuts back to Sophie and Alberto. They drive through the city in search of Albert. As they drive, Alberto tells Sophie... (full context)
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Alberto and Sophie drive out of the city, toward the town of Fiane. They stop at... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Alberttakes off from Copenhagen. As he leaves the airplane, he receives a note from Hilde (who... (full context)
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Albert lands at the airport in Lillesand. As he waits for his bags, he sees demonstrators... (full context)
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We cut back to Sophie and Alberto. They drive to the town of Lillesand and try to figure out how to find... (full context)
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...shout, “Hilde!”—it’s her father! Hilde embraces her fatherand tells him, “You’ve become a real writer!” Albert replies, “You’ve become a grown woman!” Hilde proposes that she and her father “call it... (full context)
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Hilde and Albert talk about Albert’s day. Hilde laughs as Albert describes receiving strange notes and letters all... (full context)
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We cut to Sophie and Alberto. Sophie sees Hilde embracing her father, and feels deeply jealous—Hilde is a real person, who’ll... (full context)
Chapter 35: The Big Bang
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...next to her father. It’s very late, and the stars are bright in the sky. Albert begins by reminding Hilde how odd it is that they live on a tiny planet... (full context)
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Albert reminds Hilde that light takes a finite amount of time to travel across space. This... (full context)
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...and exciting. As she talks to her father, she feels a sting on her forehead. Albert jokes that Socrates is “trying to sting you into life.” (full context)
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We cut back to Sophie and Alberto. They’re sitting in their car, still listening to Albert talk about the Big Bang. Alberto... (full context)
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Albert and Hilde talk about the ending of Sophie’s World, in which Alberto and Sophie run... (full context)
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We cut back to Hilde and Albert. Albert points up at the stars and tells Hilde that once, long ago, all matter... (full context)
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We cut back to Sophie and Alberto. Sophie tells Alberto that she wants to “try the rowboat” resting in the bay near... (full context)
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We cut back to Hilde and Albert. Albertremembers the night before her left for Lebanon—this was the night he first decided to... (full context)