Nothing opens with Danish 7th grader Pierre Anthon's words to his classmates on the first day of school: "Nothing matters. I have known that for a long time. So nothing is worth doing. I just realized that." Which is to say: don't be hoping for a happy ending, because you're not going to get one in this book. We feel pretty safe in saying that Nothing is one of the bleakest books you'll ever read, but contrary to what our hero might tell you, it's still totally worth it.
Upon making his declaration, Pierre Anthon stands up and walks out of school, leaving his classmates staring at the open door. (What, you thought it was worth shutting? Fools.) He goes back to the commune at Taeringvej number 25, where he lives with his dad and a bunch of other hippies, and he climbs a plum tree and takes up residence there. The fact that no adults intervene in any way is your first clue that Nothing is an allegory, so go ahead and suspend your disbelief right now, because you're never going to find out how his family or teachers react (or, for that matter, how he eats, changes clothes, or goes to the bathroom.) This is all about the chaos Pierre Anthon's declaration generates among his peers. Not, you know, his misdemeanor citation for squatting.
As our narrator Agnes tells us, she and the rest of class 7A decide that the way to get Pierre Anthon down from his plummy new home is to build a "heap of meaning"—a pile of things that mean something to each of them. Dennis starts the pile with his Dungeons and Dragons books, then challenges Sebastian to give up his fishing rod. Sebastian obeys, then calls for Laura's African parrot earrings. So far so good, right?
Oh, but just you wait, Shmoopers. We've got 7th graders daring each other to do stuff here. It's about to get dark.
The game goes like this: you give up a thing, then you get to choose the next person and the thing they have to give up. Of course it can't be just any old thing that matters a little bit; it has to be the thing that matters most, and the other kids get to chime in and help decide what each should sacrifice. So when Agnes's turn comes and her annoying classmate Gerda points out how much Agnes loves her new green wedge sandals, Agnes goes for the jugular: she demands Gerda's beloved hamster. Because it's fall and they're building the pile in an abandoned (read: unheated) sawmill, you can probably guess that the hamster's fate is sealed.
From there we get into grave-robbing, loss of virginity, and animal sacrifice, and it's not long before someone loses a finger. But when the newly nine-fingered Jon-Johan finally tells his parents what's been going down at the sawmill, the cops, the media, and, ultimately, the Museum of Modern Art get involved. Suddenly the heap of meaning is worth 3.6 million bucks to the New York art world. When the kids accept the museum's offer, Pierre Anthon, still firmly ensconced in the plum tree, crows with vindication: if any of that stuff really meant anything, they wouldn't have sold it, right?
Well, that's when Sofie, the girl who gave up her virginity, goes nuts. She starts running around the sawmill screaming and ramming her head into walls, and it's not long before the rest of the class goes loses it (their sanity, that is, not their virginity) and starts beating each other up.
Agnes tears herself away from the brawl and begs Pierre Anthon to get out of the tree, come see the heap once and for all, and put a stop to the madness. He agrees, but when he gets there, he tells his mangled, bloody classmates what idiots they're being, then makes the fatal mistake of turning his back on them.
Nothing ends with Class 7A torching the sawmill with Pierre Anthon's body inside, then returning after the blaze with containers in which they each save some souvenir ashes. Years later, whenever Agnes looks at hers, she realizes that you don't play around with meaning.
Welcome to existentialist philosophy, folks. Viva Kierkegaard?
- The first chapter is just Pierre Anthon's quote: "Nothing matters. I have known that for a long time. So nothing is worth doing. I just realized that."
- What a downer, eh?
- It's the first day of 7th grade in Taeringvej, and it's also the second week in August.
- Class 7A shows up to Mr. Eskildsen's classroom, and he gets all philosophical right off the bat, telling them to be joyful because there would be no such thing as vacation if there were no such thing as school.
- Fair enough. Everybody else laughs, but Pierre Anthon gets up and says the words that make up chapter 1. Then he puts all his stuff back into his backpack that he's just taken out and walks out the door, leaving it "smiling" open.
- Everybody else freaks out a little, because they're all supposed to amount to something, and existential nihilism has no place in their plans, even if they are Danish.
- Agnes, our narrator, realizes that all of a sudden she's scared of Pierre Anthon.
- Still, she goes with the rest of the class after school to the hippie commune where Pierre Anthon lives.
- He's sitting in a plum tree throwing plums. Not at them, mind you; that would be meaningless. When a plum happens to hit one of the other kids, he tells them it's just chance.
- This plum tree business goes on for the next few days, with Pierre Anthon sitting up there taunting his classmates with reminders of their meaninglessness as they walk to and from school.
- Sofie, one of the kids in 7A, asks Pierre Anthon what exactly he thinks he's doing, and he says he's contemplating the sky and getting used to doing nothing.
- As fun as it is to be reminded every morning that life is meaningless, the kids decide they have to do something to get Pierre Anthon out of that stinkin' tree.
- Eight days into Pierre Anthon's stint in the plum tree, Agnes, Jon-Johan, Gerda, Ursula-Marie, and Sofie are walking to school.
- Agnes realizes for the first time how ugly the school is and has to fight the urge to go climb up in the tree with Pierre Anthon. She fights the urge because she knows she's supposed to stay in school and amount to something.
- Jon-Johan decides they have to do something once and for all to get Pierre Anthon down, so he sends a note around to all the kids in class—except for Henrik, who's the biology teacher's son and might tell on them.
- The kids meet on the soccer field after school and try to figure out what to do.
- Pretty Rosa suggests that Pierre Anthon will come down as soon as it gets cold enough, but Agnes says all he'll have to do is dress warmly and he can stay up there. She tells the other boys that the only thing to do is drag him down and beat him up.
- The boys say that won't work, because Pierre Anthon is the best fighter in school.
- Holy Karl suggests prayer and Otto pinches him until he screams. Welp, there goes that idea.
- Little Ingrid suggests telling Mr. Eskildsen, who apparently either hasn't noticed or doesn't care that Pierre Anthon is no longer in class, but the other kids veto that idea. They don't want the adults finding out that they've realized nothing matters, because then the school would make them talk to counselors and psychologists.
- Otto suggests pelting Pierre Anthon with stones, and the others seem to think that's a grand plan. The chapter ends with them discussing what kind of stones to use and where to get them.
- The kids go to Pierre Anthon's tree pulling Holy Karl's bike trailer full of stones. They've gone down to the river to gather the heaviest ones, so they're ready to start pelting away.
- Jon-Johan commands them all, including Henrik, to throw at least two stones apiece at Pierre Anthon. Otto is keeping tally to make sure everyone actually does it.
- Aye aye, captains. The kids start flinging the stones at Pierre Anthon while he throws plums at them, taunting them about the pointlessness of their actions.
- And while we don't recommend bringing a plum to a stone fight, for the most part, Pierre's getting the better of them. He's just too high up, and they all keep missing.
- That is, until Agnes gets really mad and manages to graze him.
- It doesn't hurt him, though, and he responds with statistics about how many hours of their lives they'll waste doing pointless things like sleeping, cleaning, and having babies (and throwing stones). He estimates that they've got at most nine decent years, total, to live.
- When he tells them they're just throwing stones because they don't have the guts to climb trees, they all throw rocks at the same time and manage to knock him out of the tree.
- They leave him howling in the hedges, because Holy Karl has to return the trailer and they have to get home.
- The next morning, he's not in the tree, so they assume they've won the battle.
- But two days later, he's back, his face covered with Band-Aids, and he's armed with a whole new onslaught of taunts. When Agnes passes by, he tells her it's pointless to try to be good at anything, because someone else will always be better. This kid should really write motivational posters.
- She tells him to shut up, because she's going to be a famous fashion designer, and she gives him the finger. Way to stay classy, Aggie.
- A few days later, Jon-Johan calls them all to the soccer field again, and they make a plan to show Pierre Anthon that something matters after all.
- And so the heap of meaning is born.
- At lunch the next day, the kids all pitch in to buy a padlock for the abandoned sawmill in the field behind Sofie's parents' house. Jon-Johan goes to the hardware store to buy it, and they decide that Pierre Anthon's birthday will be the combination that opens it.
- They begin building the heap of meaning with personal items. Jon-Johan brings a Beatles tape that stopped working but that he was unable to throw out. Elise adds an old favorite doll, Holy Karl a hymnbook, and Ursula-Marie an ivory comb. You know, trinkets and stuff.
- After that, they go around the neighborhood asking neighbors for meaningful items. They collect photographs, trinkets, toys, and a rose from a bridal bouquet, but Laura says the rose actually doesn't have much meaning, since the marriage ended in divorce.
- This causes the kids with divorced parents to realize yet again that Pierre Anthon is right, which leads Jon-Johan to raise the stakes, demanding that each person give up their single most precious possession. Yeah, this is headed in the vicious cycle direction.
- Dennis starts by giving up his Dungeons & Dragons books, but he holds back the four he likes the most.
- Uh oh. Not cool dude. Otto calls him on it, and though Dennis freaks out, he gives up the books.
- Agnes says that this is when the heap of meaning starts to really become meaningful. Because apparently meaning is rooted entirely in sacrifice. Or something.
- Dennis tells Sebastian to give up his fishing rod, Sebastian makes Richard give up his black soccer ball, and Richard makes Laura give up her African parrot earrings.
- When Agnes realizes this is going nowhere good, she tries to stop it.
- But Gerda's response is to demand that Agnes give up her new green wedge sandals. She tries to weasel her way out of their agreement but of course it's way too late for that.
- Agnes has to limp home in a pair of Sofie's old sneakers that are too small, and she decides Gerda's going to pay.
- Agnes is all over finding Gerda's weak spot, which is to say, the thing it will hurt her most to give up. She's going to get revenge for those sandals. File this under Missing the Point.
- She pretends to be Gerda's BFF, of course, because she's a 7th grade girl. This entails swapping hair bands and confessing to a nonexistent crush on Huge Hans.
- Gerda totally falls for it and invites Agnes over to her house, where Agnes figures out what it will kill her to give up: her hamster, Oscarlittle.
- So, of course, that's what Agnes demands.
- Gerda cries, and Agnes almost feels sorry for her, but then she thinks of her sandals out there in the sawmill and that's that. Because sandals are alive and have feelings and are totally the same as a hamster.
- When Gerda puts Oscarlittle on top of the heap, Otto and Huge Hans praise Agnes for finally making the heap of meaning really meaningful.
- Now, of course, it's Gerda's turn. Dun dun dun.
- Gerda turns out to be super boring: she tells their classmate Maiken to give up her telescope, and even though Maiken loves her telescope, it's pretty anticlimactic compared to a hamster. Telescopes don't have feelings.
- Maiken tells Frederik to give up his Dannebrog, the Danish flag. Frederik's parents are major patriots (as in, he can't even play with Hussain, the Muslim kid), so this is a Big Deal.
- Frederik puts the flag on top of the pile and demands Lady William's diary, Lady William being the girly boy in the class that the others make fun of.
- Of course, he forgets to demand the key, so the other kids are pretty annoyed with him for that.
- Lady William demands Anna-Li's certificate of adoption (her parents adopted her from Korea), which strikes us as a bad move, legally speaking.
- Anna-Li demands Little Ingrid's crutches, telling Little Ingrid she can use her old ones.
- Little Ingrid, proving that she's the coolest character of them all so far, is totally unfazed about having to give up her crutches. She's just excited that she gets to tell Henrik to give up the snake in a jar. Here's hoping it's not alive.
- The snake in a jar is preserved in formaldehyde, and it's in their biology classroom. The class has a game of daring each other to touch it for money. (Warning: do not try this at home. Formaldehyde is bad news, Shmoopers.)
- Henrik, of course, is able to get his hands on it because he's the biology teacher's kid.
- Poor Henrik really doesn't want to do it, but Hussain swipes it off the shelf, holds it over Henrik's head at recess, and threatens to bash him with it if he doesn't put it on the heap.
- Agnes just wants them to get the heap built already, because Pierre Anthon has started spitting plum pits at her from the tree on her way to school. His latest thing is tormenting her about how she's going to marry someone she doesn't love just so she won't be alone.
- Pierre Anthon may be smarter than everyone else in his class, but he's kind of a jerk.
- Henrik swipes the snake and puts it on the heap of meaning, and the hamster, Oscarlittle, totally freaks out. The kids, of course, think this makes the snake even more meaningful.
- The chapter ends with them looking expectantly at Henrik, waiting to see what he'll demand.
- Boringly, Henrik just asks for Otto's boxing gloves.
- Otto then proceeds to torture everybody by taking eight whole days to make up his mind.
- It's not a fun day at school the day after the grand snake theft: Henrik's dad gives everybody detention because none of them will admit to stealing it. Everybody, that is, except for Henrik.
- And on top of that, Pierre Anthon is still tormenting everybody from the tree. He tells them all they'll ever end up doing is getting some job from which they'll want to take vacation time so they can do nothing, and recommends that they just get used to doing nothing now.
- And then Otto decides what he's going to ask for: Elise's dead baby brother.
- That's right. Otto has upped the ante to grave-robbing. He wants little Emil's coffin on top of the heap of meaning. Um, gross?
- He tells them it will take six people to make it happen: four taking turns digging and two keeping watch. They decide to draw cards the following day to decide who the other four (besides Otto and Elise) will be.
- Agnes is in charge of bringing the cards, and she marks the twos so she'll be sure to draw a low number and not have to go.
- But of course, the next day, Jon-Johan decides that they all have to take the top card on the stack to prevent cheating, and Agnes draws an ace and has to go, because that's kind of the way the world turns for Agnes.
- The other three who have to are Richard, Jon-Johan, and Holy Karl, who has to bring his bike trailer to haul the coffin.
- They agree to meet at Richard's at 11:00 that night and head to the graveyard together.
- The six gravediggers meet at Richard's and head to the graveyard, where they locate Emil Jensen's grave and get to digging. Agnes and Elise stand watch with flashlights.
- Just as they strike the coffin, they hear footsteps on the gravel, and Agnes freaks because she thinks it's a person.
- But it's just Cinderella, an old hound dog who refuses to leave the grave of her dead owner, Mr. Sorensen.
- The boys go back to digging, and they finally get the coffin out of the ground. But when they shovel the dirt back into the hole, they discover that it's only three-quarters full—they hadn't accounted for the space the coffin was taking up. Oops.
- Their solution? They swipe a couple of other gravestones and put them in the hole, then cover the stones with dirt. Because hey, once you've started robbing graves, you might as well just go all out with the desecration.
- As they leave the graveyard, Cinderella follows them. They try to get her to turn back, but she won't, so after placing the coffin on the heap of meaning, they lock her in the sawmill.
- Bad move, Cinderella. Really, really bad move.
- The kids who dug up the coffin brag to the others at school the next day, and it's such a big deal that they can't stop talking about it and Eskildsen has to yell at them to be quiet. Of course, he doesn't actually figure out what they're talking about, because he's an adult, and adults are pretty dumb in Nothing-land.
- It's not long before the whole town figures out that there have been shenanigans in the graveyard. They've even noticed that Cinderella disappeared, although nobody's too upset about that, because, y'know, she was doing her business on the graves and stuff.
- True to their stupid-adult form, the kids' parents remain, well, stupid. Agnes's mom asks her about the dirt and gravel on the carpet, but Agnes lies and says she was playing in the field with Sofie.
- Back at the sawmill, Cinderella refuses to leave little Emil's coffin. Poor pup.
- Elise, who never liked Emil all that much, grows fonder of Cinderella than she ever was of her brother and agrees to go out to the sawmill every evening to walk the dog.
- Oh, and there's one other thing, she says: it's her turn to pick what the next person has to give up, and she wants Ursula-Marie's blue braids.
- Hussain's all over that. He's got a Swiss Army knife with some scissors, so he and Elise chop off Ursula-Marie's hair and lay it on the pile.
- This time, Hussain's the one who makes the bad move. Seriously, when will these kids learn that you don't cross the person who's about to choose who goes next?
- Sure enough, the newly bald Ursula-Marie demands his prayer mat.
- Hussain's not having a good day. First he refuses to give up his prayer mat and Huge Hans beats him. Then he agrees to give it up and his dad beats him. This is what you call a lose-lose situation.
- Here's where things really start to get violent and depressing, just in case they weren't violent and depressing enough already. Don't say we didn't warn you.
- The next day at school, Hussain's a different person. His eyes look dead, he's black and blue, and when the kids remind him that it's his turn to demand something from someone, he just shakes his head.
- They give him a little time, but it's October now, and Pierre Anthon is still up in the tree being a jerkface, and everybody just wants the heap done and over with, so they eventually pressure him.
- Hussain says Huge Hans has to give up his yellow bike.
- Huge Hans drags his feet, taking two days to deliver it. He doesn't want to give it up, and Sofie, who still hasn't learned the don't-pressure-people-if-you-haven't-gone-yet lesson, pressures him.
- Sofie, of course, has just made the worst move of all.
- Bombshell? Dropped. Huge Hans demands Sofie's virginity.
- The girls try to come to her rescue, and of course Sofie says no, but Huge Hans asks how they know his bike didn't mean as much to him as her innocence means to her.
- They have to admit they don't. Talk about a philosophical conundrum (that has a very clear answer, if you ask Shmoop).
- Huge Hans, therefore, decides that he's going to be the one to rape her the following afternoon, and four other boys have to be at the sawmill to stand guard.
- The next day at school, Eskildsen, ever the clueless adult, tells the class that he's never seen them so quiet, and remarks that their behavior has been awfully strange this year. Ya think?
- Sofie, Agnes says, just sits at her desk looking "like… a saint… who was about to meet her death."
- In the meantime, Pierre Anthon is going totally off the deep end, yelling about chimpanzee DNA from up in his plum tree. (We share it with them, apparently, and therefore there's nothing special about being human, and therefore we should all just die.)
- Agnes decides that maybe Sofie knows the true secret of meaning: there's definitely something that matters, even if it's something you have to lose.
- The following day—okay, prepare yourselves for something ugly—there's a handkerchief on top of the pile of meaning, covered with blood and semen.
- Sofie's walking around like she's in pain, but also like she's the keeper of a great secret. Agnes tries to get details out of her, but Sofie won't cough them up.
- And now there are just three people left before the heap is complete: Holy Karl, Pretty Rosa, and Jon-Johan.
- Sofie chooses Holy Karl and says he has to give up nothing less than Jesus on the Cross.
- Jesus on the Cross is a rosewood crucifixion sculpture that hangs over the altar in Holy Karl's church. It's pretty graphic, with its blood and tears and crown of thorns, and all the little kids in the congregation are scared of it.
- They draw cards again to see who has to go help Holy Karl swipe it. The losers are Ursula-Marie, Jon-Johan, Richard, and Maiken.
- After the Sunday service, Holy Karl hides in the church until it's locked up (once again, no adults seem to notice he's missing.) The other three go to the church and knock, and when Holy Karl lets them in, he starts crying.
- Maiken has to stay with him to keep him from running off, because he's begging them not to take Jesus. Jon-Johan and Richard start trying to pry Jesus loose, but Jesus is fastened pretty tightly. You know how Jesus can be.
- Ursula-Marie walks over to Jesus, lays her hand on his foot, and feels her palm get burned. Then Jesus just randomly slides down the wall and off breaks the leg Ursula-Marie just touched.
- Even though they're all totally freaked out and want to run screaming, they load Jesus into Holy Karl's trailer and go to the sawmill to dump him on the pile.
- Cinderella the dog wigs out, because apparently she's scared of Jesus, too. They can't even get him onto the heap because she's barking and growling so much, so eventually they just have to leave him in the middle of the floor, which we can't imagine Jesus appreciates.
- The next day, Cinderella has peed all over Jesus. Oops. And even though it's not really funny, everybody but Holy Karl cracks up.
- Sofie brings a tape out to the sawmill, and they all have a little dance party to some tunes, because that's apparently what you do when you've totally gone 'round the sociopathic bend.
- It's all fun and games until Holy Karl asks for Cinderella's head.
- Which makes no sense, because Elise is the one she's closest to, and Elise already gave up her baby brother. Only Pretty Rosa and Jon-Johan haven't given anything up yet.
- So Holy Karl, who's not going to let Cinderella off the hook for "using Jesus as her personal toilet," demands that Pretty Rosa cut her throat.
- His spin on it is that Pretty Rosa hates the sight of blood, so having to cut the dog's head off will, in fact, be a sacrifice for her. We think this arguments a little weak.
- Pretty Rosa, predictably, freaks, but the other kids tell her to suck it up and do it. You don't want to go last (or next-to-last) at this game.
- The others have to admit that this is actually a pretty slick move on Holy Karl's part, because Elise is way sadder about sacrificing Cinderella than she was about her baby brother. They'd all been thinking she got off too easy, what with only having to rob a grave and all.
- Jon-Johan swipes a knife from his dad, the butcher. Pretty Rosa goes out to the sawmill by herself, turns off the lights so she doesn't have to see blood, and beheads Cinderella.
- Little do they know what she has in mind for Jon-Johan.
- Okay, final sacrifice, ready?
- It's Jon-Johan's finger. Yep. His finger.
- Ursula-Marie says that's totally not cool, given that Jon-Johan can play Beatles songs on his guitar as well as the Beatles themselves. The other kids agree with her. The loss of his finger would just be a big bummer for everyone.
- Pretty Rosa insists, but they wear her down. They tell her Jon-Johan won't be himself anymore without his finger (which, hello, is kind of the point).
- Sofie, however, knows something the rest of them don't about where his finger has been: he was one of the guards the night she was raped.
- And Sofie has no problem being the one to cut it off.
- They can't argue with Sofie. After all, she's the one who has, arguably, given up the most so far. So it's decided that she'll chop his finger off that Saturday, then they'll bandage him quickly and Holy Karl will take Jon-Johan back home to his parents in Holy Karl's bike trailer. That way, the adults can finally make themselves useful and get him to the emergency room.
- And then, on Sunday, they'll somehow get Pierre Anthon out of the tree and bring him to the sawmill to see it all.
- The kids spend Friday cleaning up the sawmill in preparation for showing it off to Pierre Anthon.
- The problem, of course, is that it smells like dead bodies and dog poo. But hey, at least they cleaned the windows.
- Jon-Johan is there whining and crying about the impending finger loss, but they tell him to shut up. They even start calling him Jonna-Johanna, because, in case you hadn't noticed, they've all become total savages.
- The story they've worked out is that he's going to tell his dad he just randomly found the missing butcher knife stuck in some wooden post somewhere, and when he tried to pull it out, he cut off his finger.
- Jon-Johan's over it, though. Now he's planning to snitch, or to just not show up the following day.
- Sofie says no problem, they'll just hunt him down and chop off his whole hand because, you know, why not?
- So he shows up on Saturday, but he's crying for his mom and rolling in the sawdust, which causes Agnes to think about how we wear masks to cover up who we really are.
- Or, in other words, about how right Pierre Anthon is.
- Sure enough, Sofie chops the finger off. It takes her four tries with the butcher knife, but girlfriend succeeds. Ugh.
- Then Holy Karl hauls him away in the trailer, with Otto calling after him to cheer up, since he gets to pick the next person to go.
- Agnes reminds us that this isn't true, since Jon-Johan was last—unless, of course, Otto meant Pierre Anthon.
- Sure enough, Jon-Johan tells his parents, and the police show up at the sawmill before Pierre Anthon has a chance to visit.
- Everyone gets grounded (hey, what ever happened to good ol' juvie?), except for Hussain, who gets beaten so badly he gets sent to the hospital. There, he shares a room with Jon-Johan, which leads Agnes to describe them as "lucky" because at least they get to hang out and talk.
- The teachers go to town on them, too, and Henrik and Frederik immediately break down and start crying. But Sofie stands her ground, telling Mr. Eskildsen that none of the adults had ever taught them any meaning, so they had to find their own.
- At recess, they decide they have to find a way to get Pierre Anthon past the police tape at the sawmill and show him the heap of meaning.
- Agnes comes up with a plan: involve the media! Because, of course, things aren't messed up enough already.
- A few days later, she finally has her chance: while the rest of her family is out, she calls the local paper, Taering Tuesday, and pretends to be a woman named Hedda Huld Hansen. She tells the editor about the heap, and that she's heard it was made by a group of children who wanted to prove to another that life had meaning.
- Sure enough, the newspaper runs the story. And when all the teachers and parents start questioning them about it, they all echo Sofie in simply saying, "We've found the meaning!"
- It's a straight up media frenzy in Taering. Some of the press thinks the kids are demons, some think they're artists. Everyone's talking.
- Regardless of what they think, the heap of meaning is now meaningful to the masses, and everyone wants to see it. The cops are forced to allow access to the public every afternoon.
- The kids are thrilled: now Pierre Anthon can come and see it, too.
- Except, of course, that he doesn't want to. To him, it's still meaningless. (They should have seen that one coming, right? After all, the guy's been living on plums and shouting about chimpanzees for months. He's not exactly reasonable.)
- But the rest of the world is all over it. Throughout the winter, journalists and photographers from all over the world come to see the heap of meaning, and everyone else is so impressed that it almost doesn't matter that Pierre Anthon still isn't.
- Pierre Anthon's still in the tree, bundled up for winter now. And he's still ranting about how the heap of meaning is meaningless.
- But who cares? A TV show in Atlanta wants to fly the whole class to America to do an interview. Wowzers.
- However, the parents finally do something non-stupid and tell them they can't go, for security reasons. The kids are only slightly bummed; after all, if their security has become that important, they must be really meaningful. (They've obviously never heard of reality show celebrities.)
- Pierre Anthon sees through it, though. He says the adults kept them behind because they wanted the media to keep coming to Taering and spending money at all the local businesses.
- But the Atlanta TV show host refuses to come to Taering; she's too busy.
- Which must mean the kids aren't really that important at all.
- Which must mean the heap of meaning really isn't that meaningful.
- Which must mean Pierre Anthon is right.
- Agnes can't deal with the doubt. She goes back to pretending to be superior, because that's way better than Pierre Anthon being right.
- The class realizes that, for reasons they can't explain, the victory in their celebrity is beginning to feel like defeat.
- Everything changes when "a big museum in New York," which the author insinuates but never directly says is The Museum of Modern Art, offers $3.6 million for the heap of meaning.
- They accept the deal, and the lawyers start signing contracts and figuring out how to transport the rapidly decaying heap.
- Also decaying? The media's, and therefore the public's, interest. With their celebrity waning, class 7A becomes totally confused about whether the heap was meaningful or not. And if it was, how could it just stop being?
- Pierre Anthon is having a total field day. He may be sitting in a tree in the middle of winter dreaming about the days of plums gone by, but he's totally right.
- Existentialism: 1, Class 7A: 0.
- Sofie, however, is sticking it out. She still sees the meaning. And can you blame her? Jon-Johan may have lost a finger, but given the cultural importance of girls' virginity, it could be argued that Sofie lost the most.
- March rolls around, and it's the month the MOMA is supposed to pick up the heap of meaning.
- Pierre Anthon still hasn't come to see it. In fact, our little Kierkegaard is still in the tree, and he's pretty much undone everybody but Sofie.
- Agnes can't even lift her arm anymore without thinking about how it will turn into nothing when she lowers it.
- Sofie's still doing battle with Pierre Anthon, though. She goes to the tree and yells back, telling him he doesn't have the guts to come see the heap of meaning.
- Finally he asks her the question that sends her over the edge: if the heap of meaning really had any meaning, she wouldn't have sold it, would she?
- That does it: Sofie officially loses her mind.
- It's the day before the MOMA shows up for the heap (we don't even want to think about how it's smelling at this point), and Sofie's running around the sawmill slamming her head into things.
- The other kids are there with her, telling her to shut up and trying to restrain her. But Sofie's a tornado. She refuses to let Pierre Anthon be right.
- When she reaches the point that she's just screaming, "Nothing," over and over again, it's like the spirit of Pierre Anthon invades the sawmill, and everyone goes bonkers.
- Hussain hits Ursula-Marie for making him give up his prayer mat, Huge Hans kicks Hussain for making him give up his bike, and before long it's a full-on battle royale.
- Just about the time you're starting to wonder how Agnes is getting away with just standing there describing it all, Gerda jumps her. It's hamster payback time.
- Agnes manages to break free and run to Pierre Anthon's tree, where she begs him to come see the stupid heap of meaning once and for all.
- To her surprise, when she tells him Sofie's gone crazy, he gets down from the tree and follows her.
- Once he arrives at the sawmill, he tells his classmates what idiots they are, giving them one final lecture about meaninglessness before turning his back on them.
- Which is, of course, the worst move anyone's made in the whole book.
- Needless to say, they beat Pierre Anthon to death. You saw that coming, right?
- That night, the sawmill burns to the ground, with Pierre's lifeless body inside.
- When the police show up the next day, they decide Pierre Anthon must have set fire to the sawmill because he couldn't deal with the meaning, and nobody corrects them. We never learn what really caused the fire.
- The kids go to Pierre Anthon's funeral, and some of them even cry, because it's beautiful. But more than that, they're crying because of what they lost and gained. They know they gained something; they're just not sure what yet.
- After the funeral, everybody goes to the sawmill. Sofie brings containers from home and everyone saves some ashes.
- They can almost hear Pierre Anthon's voice in their heads, telling them death has no meaning because life has no meaning.
- As Danish kids do, everyone goes their separate way for 8th grade (it's like their version of high school.)
- They never attempt to contact each other again.
- Occasionally, Agnes takes out her matchbox and contemplates the fact that some things do, indeed, have meaning.
- And, as she says, "meaning is not something to fool around with. Is it, Pierre Anthon?"