Literapedia Book Notes for

Sophie's Choice by William Styron


Characters

  • Stingo (ch 1) — Narrator
  • Farrell (ch 1) — Senior editor and Stingo's superior at McGraw-Hill & Company
  • The Weasel (ch 1) — Editor-in-chief who fires Stingo
  • Yetta Zimmerman (ch 2) — Owner of the house
  • Morris Fink (ch 2) — A fellow tenant of Stingo's who thinks Nathan is a golem
  • Sophie Zawistowska (ch 2) — Nathan's lover
  • Nathan Landau (ch 2) — Sophie's lover
  • Larry Landau (ch 3) — Nathan's brother
  • Casimir / Kazik (ch 4) — Sophie's first husband who was killed by the Nazis
  • Leslie (ch 5) — Stingo's almost-girlfriend
  • Höss (ch 9) — SS Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Franz Höss, the man for whom Sophie worked during her time at Auschwitz
  • Jan (ch 10) — Sophie's ten-year-old son who was placed in the Children's Camp
  • Jozef (ch 12) — Sophie's lover in Warsaw
  • Eva (ch 12) — Sophie's young daughter

Chapter Summaries

  1. Stingo talks about his brief stint at McGraw-Hill & Company in 1947 as a "junior editor" (which he calls a euphemism for "manuscript reader") at the age of 22. He gets fired and then decides to move to Brooklyn to write a novel of his own.
  2. Stingo meets his fellow tenants, Nathan and Sophie, and is slightly bewildered by their odd relationship. The two lovers get into a big fight and Nathan storms out, leaving Sophie in tears.
  3. The next morning, it is as if no such fight occurred. The two lovers invite Stingo to Sophie's room for some beer and conversation. Everything seems to be going well until Nathan's mood suddenly changes and he becomes violent towards Stingo. They quarrel, but then Nathan suddenly becomes apologetic and the three go on an excursion to Coney Island.
  4. Sophie tells Stingo about her past. She was raised in Cracow, Poland had a reasonably good life growing up. Both of her parents were professors, and Sophie herself was married at a young age to a mathematics scholar. One day, the Germans came and took Sophie's father and husband away to a concentration camp and shot them on New Year's Day. Sophie fled to America after the war ended.
  5. Stingo spends more time working on his book. The three friends get to know each other better. Stingo meets Leslie.
  6. Sophie relates more of her story to Stingo. She describes scenes from concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
  7. Sophie describes to Stingo how Nathan cared for her while she was sick. Stingo goes on a date with Leslie that, for him, ends unexpectedly.
  8. Stingo gets to know Nathan better and admires him more and more. Then, one day, Nathan gets into another one of his weird moods and lashes out at Sophie (and a little at Stingo) and this time leaves for good.
  9. More of Sophie's story, specifically, about her time as a prisoner/secretary under Höss and about her father.
  10. Höss admits he has feelings for Sophie but refuses to act on them. After much begging and groveling, Sophie is granted permission to see her young son, Jan.
  11. Stingo's father visits Stingo in New York. Stingo recalls a mistake he made as a child involving his ailing mother. More of Sophie's story relating to Jan. Meanwhile, in the present, Sophie is grieving over parting with Nathan and has taken up drinking.
  12. All of Stingo's money is gone from its hiding place, the medicine chest. Sophie talks about Jozef. Sophie attempts to drown herself while at the beach with Stingo, but Stingo saves her, much to her dismay. More of Sophie's story and the impossible choice she had to make between her children.
  13. Sophie tries to get her son transported from the Children's Camp to Lebensborn but does not succeed. She received a message stating that Jan was gone from the Children's Camp and could only assume he died.
  14. Nathan returns and announces marriage plans. Stingo meets with Larry, Nathan's brother, who explains that Nathan is a paranoid schizophrenic. Later, Nathan gets into another fit of rage and nearly kills Sophie. Stingo and Sophie flee to Virginia.
  15. Stingo and Sophie travel by train. Stingo tells Sophie he is in love with her. Sophie talks more about Auschwitz.
  16. Stingo and Sophie sleep together. Sophie leaves the next day to return to Nathan, and the two lovers commit suicide together.


Book Note Creator


Lucy Song, '08