Sophie is a super smart eight-year-old with a yearning for adventure and a bad habit of being awake during the Witching Hour. She has spent her whole pre-BFG life in various orphanages, because her parents died when she was a baby. The first time we see her, we see her curious, eager to look out the window of her dormitory even though she knows it’s a dangerous time of the night. No wonder she gets herself captured by a giant.
Sophie’s an ideal captive. She’s very levelheaded. Can you imagine someone more nervous or shy being captured by a giant? Chances are there would be a lot more screaming and crying.
Sophie screams once, when the giant first grabs her. We can’t really blame her for being an itty bit scared. Still, the whole time she thinks the BFG is going to eat her, she keeps her cool:
“She was wondering with a bit of a tremble what all this talking about eating people was leading up to. Whatever happened, she simply must play along with this peculiar giant and smile at his jokes.” (5.15)
Not every kidnapped kid would be able to do that.
Even when Sophie realizes the BFG is, well, friendly, there’s still the problem of being stuck in the Giant Country. She reasons this problem out to the BFG:
“The thing that worries me…is having to stay in this dreadful place for the rest of my life. The orphanage was pretty awful, but I wouldn’t have been there forever, would I?” (7.21)
And then she points out, without even a whimper, “Those brutes out there are bound to catch me sooner or later and have me for tea.” (7.25) She’d probably be a good side dish with a cup of Earl Grey.
It’s Sophie’s ability to be logical, think ahead, and focus on the facts that makes her such an excellent friend to the BFG. She balances out his emotional impulsiveness. And it’s she who comes up with a plan to save the other giants’ future victims. How cool is that for an eight-year-old?
In many ways, Sophie is a proper British girl. She’s very patriotic—eager to defend the Queen of England—and she gets hung up on language, often correcting the BFG for saying the wrong word.
When he warns her about being so thin she’ll disappear into “thick ear” (8.41), she says, “‘Into thin air . . . A thick ear is something quite different.’” (8.42) But the BFG had already explained that words get jumbled in his head. It’s like she can’t help herself from trying to teach her giant friend to be more precise.
In fact, Sophie reminds us of another proper British girl from literature: Alice in Wonderland. Like Alice, Sophie strives to be reasonable, even when faced with the fantastic. And just like the creatures of Wonderland do with Alice, the BFG presents Sophie with arguments and ideas that challenge how she sees the world. Like when the BFG says humans are younger, if you count only their waking hours:
“‘What about me?’ Sophie said. ‘I am eight.’
‘You is not eight at all,’ the BFG said. ‘Human bean babies and little chiddlers is spending half their time sleeping, so you is only four.’
‘I’m eight,’ Sophie said.” (13.6-8)
It’s a good point, in a way, but see how Sophie clings to the idea she already has? She probably wouldn’t be able to make her argument if only had four years of brainpower, after all.
She acts the same way when the BFG implies that humans are as bad as giants, or even worse:
“‘Human beans is the only animals that is killing their own kind.’
‘Don’t poisonous snakes kill each other?’ Sophie asked. She was searching desperately for another creature that behaved as badly as the human.” (11.71-72)
Sophie tries to hang on to what she knows to be true, and but the BFG challenges her. But Sophie is fair. She ends up admitting that he has a point. Even though he can be silly, the BFG also makes Sophie see how silly and illogical (and, um, violent) humans can be. And questioning what you take for granted is always a good thing to do.
Though Sophie is not sentimental, she does have an emotional moment in the story: the first time the BFG leaves her since her capture. How can you blame her? She never really had a friend at the orphanage.
“‘Goodbye,’ Sophie whispered.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, the BFG leaned forward and kissed her gently on the cheek.
Sophie felt like crying.” (18.51-53)
It’s a simple, straightforward scene. Sophie doesn’t even cry. She just feels like it. For Sophie, though, that’s a big deal. It tells us all we need to know: how much logical Sophie cares about the giant, and what a big deal it is to an orphan like her to get a kiss.
True, getting a smooch from a mouth the size of your entire body would be big to anyone, but for Sophie, this may be the first dose of affection she’s ever received. Sweet, right?