Study Guide

Nothing Sex

By Janne Teller


I can hardly bring myself to tell what it was Sofie had to give up. It was something only a boy could think of, and it was so gross and repugnant that the rest of us almost all pleaded on her behalf. (13.1)

Note the word "almost" in this sentence. Pleading for mercy on Sofie would have meant going against the group, and Agnes just isn't willing to do that—even if it means being party to sexual violence.

So even though we had our doubts, it was eventually agreed that Huge Hans was going to help her lose it the following evening at the old sawmill. Four of the boys were to stay behind to lend a hand if necessary. The rest of us would be sent home to make sure we couldn't come to her rescue. (13.7)

"Lend a hand"? Hmm. That reminds us of Sofie's later threat to cut off Jon-Johan's entire hand if he won't give up his finger. That's some cruel irony right there.

Sofie was doing right to grin and bear it. There was definitely something that mattered in spite of everything, even if that something was something you had to lose. (13.14)

What are some other things you might have to lose in order for them to have meaning?

I don't know exactly what happened the night Huge Hans helped Sofie give up the innocence. The next day there was just a smidgen of blood and some slime on a checked handkerchief lying at the top of the heap of meaning, and Sofie was walking a bit funny, like it hurt when she moved her legs. (13.15)

The fact that nobody told what was going on at this point is a testament to the power of peer pressure. Given her physical condition, Sofie has clearly been the victim of sexual violence, and yet nobody's talking.

She wouldn't tell me anything. Just walked around looking like she'd found out a secret that may have been terrible but that nonetheless had handed her the key to something of great meaning. (13.18)

Listen up, Shmoopers: it's not supposed to be terrible, and if it is, something is terribly wrong. Okay? Okay.

Eventually we agreed, since no one was going to be able to bring themselves to cut off Jon-Johan's finger anyway. "I will," said Sofie matter-of-factly. (16.15)

Sometimes suffering an act of aggression makes a person more capable of committing one.

The rest of us had given up without a fight, but still the thought of Sofie giving up was too unbearable. And that was exactly what was happening. Or so I thought. But Sofie didn't give up. Sofie lost her mind. (22.29)

Agnes feels that what Sofie lost makes it uniquely awful for Sofie—too awful, in fact, for Sofie to admit Pierre Anthon was right. The idea that losing her mind is preferable to giving up makes her seem like a martyr, which Agnes called her earlier.

"Oh, so that's the meaning!" he burst out angrily, and grabbed hold of Sofie. He took her by the shoulders and sort of shook her until she stopped screaming. "And that's why you sold it?" (23.48)

We're never sure if Pierre Anthon knows exactly what Sofie sold to the museum—after all, all that was left behind from that night was a handkerchief—but given the implication of prostitution, his saying this would probably be particularly hurtful to her.

That summer we were scattered to the bigger schools to the north, south, east, and west, and Sofie was sent somewhere where they protect people like her from themselves. (26.1)

In what way did Sofie need to be protected from herself? What might have happened if she had gone to school with her peers?

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