by Janne Teller
Nothing Theme of Violence
Nothing just may be one of the most violent young adult books you'll ever read, what with the rape, murder, and chopping off of body parts. It's right up there with Lord of the Flies and A Clockwork Orange in the Violent Banned Books canon. What makes the violence particularly harrowing here is the emotional desolation behind it. It could be argued that Sofie's rape and subsequent calm chopping off of Jon-Johan's finger is way more chilling than the wild brawl at the sawmill. Why? Because we as readers can somehow justify violence if it's driven by—wait for it—meaning.
Questions About Violence
- If you truly believe that life has no meaning, do you become more or less capable of violent acts? Why do you think that?
- Would the kids have been capable of the violence they committed if they hadn't been encouraged by the group? Why or why not?
- What do you think is the most violent act in the book, and why?
Chew on This
A social psychologist named Stanley Milgram found that people were more likely to commit violent acts against an unseen opponent when encouraged by an authority figure. In Nothing, the group acts as the authority figure—authority by majority.
After being raped, Sofie carries out arguably the most violent act of all when she cuts off Jon-Johan's finger. Violence begets violence begets violence be—oh you get the picture.