During the course of Sophie’s World, Hilde Møller Knag reads from a binder her father, Albert Knag, has sent her. In this binder, there’s a book called Sophie’s World, which corresponds pretty closely to the book we, the readers, are reading. By setting part of its action within a book, Sophie’s World—that is, the book we’re reading—brings up questions of what is and isn’t real, and whether a work of fiction can’t take on a kind of philosophical truth or reality that transcends its artificiality. In this way, the binder symbolizes the ambiguous nature of reality, the very thing that compels philosophers to use both reason and observation to understand the world.
The Sophie’s World quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Binder / Sophie’s World. 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: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar, Strauss and Giroux edition of Sophie’s World published in 2007.).
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Binder / Sophie’s World appears in Sophie’s World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 23: Bjerkeley
...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 World. The first chapter of the book... (full context)
...Hilde reads on, she’s surprised to find that she herself is a character in the book. The main character, Sophie, keeps receiving letters addressed to Hilde. Hilde realizes that the letters... (full context)
...wishes Hilde a happy birthday. Hilde thanks her mother but then returns to reading her book. Hilde’s mother, a little offended, asks Hilde to open her gift—it’s a beautiful gold bracelet.... (full context)
Chapter 24: The Enlightenment
Chapter 25: Kant
Chapter 26: Romanticism
Chapter 27: Hegel
Chapter 29: Marx
Chapter 30: Darwin
Chapter 31: Freud
Chapter 32: Our Own Time
...“Back soon, Hilde!” Alberto mutters, “Charlatan.”Alberto and Sophie keep walking, and eventually come to a bookstore. In the back, they find the “New Age” section, full of tarot cards, UFO photographs,... (full context)
Chapter 33: The Garden Party
Chapter 34: Counterpoint
Chapter 35: The Big Bang