Study Guide

Nothing Sacrifice

By Janne Teller


I knew it was going to come. And to be honest, that was probably why I tried to stop the whole affair. It would only be a matter of time before someone got around to my sandals. (5.22)

It's kind of odd that the kids who made small sacrifices in the beginning still joined in the fistfight at the end, right? We mean, what do they have to be so worked up about?

"Well, I'm most sorry," Lady William retorted with an indulgent air. "My diary is my life. If it may be sacrificed to the heap, then so may a certificate of adoption. Was it not our intention that the heap should be meaningful?" (7.24)

What would you prefer: for your classmates to read your diary, or to lose a finger? Tough call, we'd say. Shmoop's got some pretty embarrassing entries in our diary, which is why it's hidden under lock and key.

"Elise's baby brother," Otto finally announced, and it was like a gust of wind passed through the sawmill. (9.17)

Why does Agnes use the phrase "a gust of wind" to describe the feeling in the room? It has a ghosty feeling, to be sure, but maybe she's just being metaphorical—talking about the impact of Otto's request.

Ursula-Marie sat for a long time, looking at her braids.

There were no longer tears on her cheeks. Instead her eyes were glowing with rage. She turned calmly to Hussain and in a gentle voice, her teeth only moderately clenched, said:

"Your prayer mat!" (11.16-18)

Agnes equates cutting off Ursula-Marie's hair to cutting off the Biblical character Samson's, so it makes perfect sense that the sacrifice Ursula-Marie demands has to do with religion.

Sofie was one of those who pressured the most.

She shouldn't have done that. (12.16-17)

Poor Sofie. We feel so sorry for her we can't even disagree with Agnes.

"How do you know my neon yellow bike doesn't mean as much to me as Sofie's innocence means to her?" (13.5)

Because, nimrod. It doesn't. It's a BIKE. But putting that aside for the moment, we can't help but note that he's basically pointing out a central tenet of existentialism, which all these kids are sort of trying to argue against—that meaning is relative.

The first thing was for Pretty Rosa to pull herself together. Cinderella's head was a considerably smaller sacrifice than the ones many of the rest of us had been forced to make. The second thing was that we'd all suspected Elise had gotten off too lightly and had actually been happy about her brother's coffin being dug up. Holy Karl had found two sacrifices with one prayer. (15.20)

Why do you think Elise would have been happy that her brother's coffin had been dug up? We never learn much about her family. Can you think of a scenario that could have led to her feeling this way?

"And if it didn't hurt," Anna-Li added quietly, "there wouldn't be any meaning in it." (17.54)

Do you agree with Anna-Li? Can you think of anything meaningful that doesn't hurt?

There was something eerie about how calm she was. Nevertheless, it was like it was rubbing off on the rest of us. What was to happen was a necessary sacrifice in our struggle for the meaning. We all had to do our bit. (17.49)

Sofie's coldness may have rubbed off on the others, but theirs may have rubbed off on her first. It's the Nothing version of the chicken-and-egg question.

"Isn't that the meaning we've got out there at the sawmill?" Sofie looked Frederik straight in the eye and stared until he lowered his gaze and nodded. "If we give up the meaning, all we have is squat." (18.33)

So what do you think, Shmoopers: was it the meaning they had out there at the sawmill? Or was Pierre Anthon right all along?

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...