Sophie’s World


Jostein Gaarder

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Sophie’s World: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

In the evening, Sophie finds a thick package in the den. Inside, there’s a videotape. She plays the tape in her VCR, and sees a man standing in front of the Acropolis in Athens. The man introduces himself as Alberto Knox. He points out the large structure on the hill—the Parthenon. Inside, he says, there was a huge statue of Athena, before which the Greeks prayed. Alberto also points out the ruins of an ancient theater, in which the works of the greatest Greek dramatists were performed.
As Sophie proceeds with her education, the media through which she learns become more advanced: first letters, now videotapes (there were no DVDs back in 1990!). This reflects Sophie’s growing awareness of the world and of herself—she no longer spends so much time in her den, suggesting that she’s becoming more confident and less cloistered.
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Suddenly, the video “cuts” to a different version of Athens. The stone ruins have been replaced by glorious, brightly colored buildings. Alberto explains that Sophie is looking at Athens as it once was. Alberto strolls through the streets and greets two men, one old, one young. The old man is Socrates, and the young man is Plato. Plato greets Sophie and gives her a couple of challenges. He asks Sophie why all horses are the same, if the soul is immortal, if men and women are equally sensible, and how a baker could bake fifty identical cookies. The tape ends, and Sophie can’t help but think that she’s been dreaming. She goes to her room and takes a nap.
Sophie’s lessons don’t just get more technologically sophisticated—they get more and more fantastical. It’s not explained (at least not right away) how Alberto has arranged for the city of Athens to be rebuilt from the ruins. There’s a strong element of fantasy and even absurdity running through this book, and it will only get stronger. This helps Gaarder keep things interesting and fun even as he pursues an otherwise heavy subject.
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