Sophie's Choice: William Styron Essay

1167 words - 5 pages

Sophie's Choice: William Styron

William Styron's novel Sophie's Choice explores the way people moved on with life after the Great Depression, and World War II. The book gives an inside look into the lives of two very different individuals, Sophie, a Polish woman and an Auschwitz survivor, as well as Nathan, a Jewish man who is a paranoid schizophrenic and growing more mentally unstable. The story is told through the eyes of a young writer named Stingo and tells of his interactions with the couple. Grief and depression are a lot more complicated than anyone would like to imagine, and the difficulties victims of those conditions endure need to be dealt with, but in the 1940's people were encouraged to "live the good life" rather than deal with the problems echoing continuously in the backs of their minds.

Coming out of the Great Depression, this generation was encouraged to be anything but depressed. In this book these two characters, although distinct in background, must deal with their problems, and face the consequences. The pressure to move on, as is human nature, eventually leads to a sadly fatal conclusion.
Sophie Zawistowska, a gorgeous Polish woman living in the same house as Stingo, is a troubled survivor of the concentration camps during World War II. Throughout the book her story is revealed, through long monologues and stories Stingo, the narrator, tells. The title of the book is Sophie's Choice, but not until the last few pages is it told what Sophie's choice is. Sophie is shown as a vulnerable character, a lover of music and her boyfriend. Her passions also include America, the beach, and creative outfits. Everything in the world in which Sophie lives is the American Dream, the world after the depression.

Throughout the book her story is unveiled. Sophie, the fun-loving Polish girl, has been twice widowed and lost two children. On top of these disasters she is also sent to a concentration camp. In the final pages of the novel she is given the ultimatum by a Nazi soldier,

You may keep one of your children. The other one will have to go. Which one will you keep? (p. 562)

This decision is possibly the most difficult one a parent would ever have to make, and tormented Sophie for the rest of her short life.

Suppose I had chosen Jan to go . . . to go to the left instead of Eva. Would that have changed anything?" (p. 572)

This question remained unanswered to Sophie, who was never given the opportunity to grieve properly for her loss. Instead, she was cast into a world where she has no choice but to be happy.

One thing that gives her hope for true happiness is Nathan, a man she meets in the library one day. Nathan plays the role of her hero. He is a biologist who has plenty of financial resources. He nurses her back to health and the two become lovers. However, there is one glitch in this wonderful chance meeting. Nathan is a paranoid schizophrenic. He is addicted to the drug Benzedrine Sulfate, and drinks...

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