London School of Journalism Review

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, which will haunt her the rest of her life.

Audible Audio Excerpt

Sophie’s Choice Movie Trailer

Reflecting on Sophie’s Choice 35 Years Later