Page 28. " Everything that man esteems "

This is the last stanza of Two Songs from a Play by W.B. Yeats. You can read the rest of the poem here.

Page 29. " like another instance of great fortune much later in my life "

This 'other instance of great fortune' which has its roots in slavery is, if we take Stingo to be Styron's double, probably the success of Styron's 1967 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Confessions of Nat Turner, based on the life of the slave rebellion leader of that name. For more information see the bookmark to p. 516: "Nat Turner, I said, was a Negro slave"

Page 42. " The ravishing sweet heartbeat of the slow movement of Beethoven's Fourth Symphony. "

Beethoven's 1806 Fourth Symphony, in B Flat Major, was dedicated to Count Franz von Oppersdorff; the Count commissioned the piece after hearing the Second Symphony.


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Beethoven's Fourth Symphony: First Movement on Spotify

Beethoven's Fourth Symphony: Second Movement on Spotify

Beethoven's Fourth Symphony: Third Movement on Spotify

Beethoven's Fourth Symphony: Fourth Movement on Spotify

Page 44. " In addition, it is a platitude by now that the Jew has found considerable fellowship among white Southerners because Southerners have possessed another, darker sacrificial lamb. "

This statement is indicative of the period in which the novel is set. While the Civil War in theory freed slaves and gave them American citizenship, they were considered second class citizens. They were denied the right to vote in most Southern states, and were subject to the infamous Jim Crow Laws. Immediately following the close of World War II, the African American population began a concentrated push for Civil Rights, which would ultimately give birth to the African American Civil Rights Movement that peaked in the 1960s.

In relation to Sophie's Choice, this is significant for a number of reasons. Nathan, a Jewish-American, will constantly come back to the theme of slavery in the American South. Nathan is driven by a need for justice at a time when many war criminals were going unpunished. And it is for this reason that he keeps coming back to this topic, and using it against the Southerner, Stingo. 



Like many in American society during this time, Nathan felt that American civilization was one of the greatest examples of hypocrisy ever seen. While condemning the Nazis for their Jewish genocide, Americans continued to uphold racist ideals in their own country. Not only did they continue slavery after most other countries had abandoned the practice, but even following the Civil War they failed to correct the wrongs that had been perpetrated, permitting the continuance of brutal acts of violence, the enforcement of unjust and unequal laws, and the denial of the basic rights to the African-American population. It was these injustices that Nathan felt so strongly about, and it is for this reason that the issue of African-American slavery plays such an important role in Sophie's Choice.

Page 49. " feeling fortunate to have this Southern Lord Chesterfield as an advisor "

Lord Chesterfield lived during the reign of George I, and was renowned for his oratory and writing. He became ambassador to the Hague in 1728, and negotiated the Treaty of Vienna in 1731. He also served as the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the Secretary of State for the Northern Department.

He became well known for his campaign against King George II, writing prolific articles for The Constitutional Journal under the pen name Jeffrey Broadbottom. But he is best remembered for the letters written to his son at Westminster School. Many of these letters took the form of words of wisdom and counsel from a loving father.