In Sophie's Choice, how do Sophie and Nathan show deception and self-deception and why?I'm also not sure what this reveals about society. Any help would be greatly appreciated :)

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The deception that both Sophie and Nathan display are pathological in their nature, contributing to making their lives more livable.  Nathan's deception of others relies on concealing from others his insanity and abuse of alcohol and drugs.  Masking it through intelligence, wit, and charisma, Nathan is able to portray himself as the elusive genius that others admire and by whom intimidation is experienced.  His self deception lies in his inability to comprehend the full nature of his paranoia and his insanity.  He cannot muster the honesty to understand his suffering and Sophie's are interrelated as they are both victims.  Sophie is a victim of a present forever haunted by its past, while Nathan is a victim of a present that cannot understand its past.

Sophie's deception of others is rooted in her experience during the Holocaust.  She is a victim of it, yet she is not Jewish, but Polish.  This creates a distinct level of deception on the part of others, as they naturally assume she is Jewish.  Sophie also deceives others with her status as a survivor.  Many believe that intense emotional strength and personal activism or resistance initiated her survival.  However, she reveals herself to be against the resistance cause, at different moments using her status as Polish citizen to try to garner favors from the Nazis.  The traditional depiction is that survivors of the Holocaust were active members of the Resistance, but through Sophie's memory we see that she was willing to act as a collaborator, if it would have translated into her survival.  She also deceives others as she praises her father as a brilliant intellectual, but one who was intensely anti- Semitic, a fact that did not matter when he was rounded up as all intellectuals were by Nazi forces.  Her deception of self lies in her having to make the choice of which of her children should live and which shall die.  She deceives herself in believing that she actually had a choice and could affect the outcome of such a dilemma.  She deceives herself in her constant pain in seeing herself as both victim and tormentor in a simultaneous manner.  The branded number on her arm serves as both reminder of her loss and the crimes her own mind sees her as perpetrating.  To conceal this, she succumbs to alcohol and drugs and a relationship with the abusive Nathan and young Stingo as a way out of a psyche riddled with pain and hurt.

The deception perpetrated and endured within both characters reveals the psychological dimensions of character that exist within all stratas of society.  The ills caused by both political experience and personal upbringing are unavoidable and have a distinct impact on individuals in a functioning democracy.  In understanding these levels of pain along with the ability to strip away the layers of deception of others and self, greater promise and redemption can be possible for both these individuals the social order, as whole.

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