42 pages 1 hour read

William Styron

Sophie's Choice

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1979

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Symbols & Motifs

Classical Music

When Sophie tells Stingo about her happy childhood, she mentions the all-pervasive influence of music. Her mother was a piano teacher at the university, and Sophie always intended to follow in her footsteps. Although the war disrupted Sophie’s musical aspirations, she continues to crave the sound of classical music for the rest of her life.

While working in Höss’ office, she can hear the sound of the radio playing downstairs. Although she is delighted to hear classical compositions that she recognizes, Sophie reacts with distaste to popular German tunes. Later, Wanda asks her to steal that same radio because music and news from the outside world would make an enormous difference in the quality of life for the prisoners in the labor camp.

When Sophie first meets Nathan, he provides a phonograph and records for her listening pleasure. Stingo first becomes aware of the couple upstairs because of the sound of their phonograph. He, too, shares Sophie’s love of the classics and identifies various compositions as they relate to events in the story. During one of Nathan’s dark moods, he demands that Sophie return all his records, knowing that this is one of the best ways to hurt her.

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