I think that Sophie's number that is tattooed on her arm is a significant symbol in the novel. It is the gateway through which all of consciousness is viewed. The number is how Stingo first is introduced to Sophie, helping to formulate his initial impressions of her. For Nathan, the number strikes at his own very condition of being Jewish and being driven insane partially by the "ghosts of Auschwitz." For Sophie, the number represents her status as both victim and victimizer. The number embodies her own struggle as a victim of the Nazis. It also represents her own condition as the victimizer, in that the number compels her to acknowledge her own responsibility for the sacrifice of her child at Auschwitz. She lives with the tattoo, symbolic of how she is never fully able to rid herself of the pain of her experience. The symbolic meaning of the tattooed number is representative of how it always remains with her. When she makes love to Stingo, the number is the only visible remain. While she might have engaged in an "orgiastic attempt to beat back death," the tattoo, the number, is still there, waiting for Sophie, almost lingering around her no matter what. The tattooed number becomes the ultimate symbol for Sophie as a reflection of her own pain of being in consciousness.
Thank you so much! This has helped me understand and relate her tattoo to more things throughout the novel. Is there any nature like symbols in this novel though? My group and I have been discussing this.