After their arrest, Sophie, Wanda, and the children endured a torturous train ride to Auschwitz. When they arrived, a Nazi physician boarded the train. Knowing that people were being sorted into groups to meet their fates, Sophie told the official that she and her children spoke German and were Christian, not Jewish. The physician reacted with interest to her claim to be Christian and offered her a terrible choice: Sophie could keep one of her children, and the other would be sent to die. Sophie insisted that she couldn’t choose but finally handed over Eva, who was taken away to the gas chambers. Faced with the horror of this story, Stingo speculated that the physician must have been wrestling with his faith and morality in this moment of extreme crisis. Stingo supposed that the Nazi physician would have wanted to voluntarily commit the worst act he could think of in order to reaffirm both the possibility of evil and the possibility of faith and redemption.

Summary: Chapter Sixteen

Sophie and Stingo went to dinner. Eventually Stingo asked questions about Jan, and Sophie admitted that if she could find her son, she might finally feel redeemed. She had thought about looking for him, but the parents of other Lebensborn children were never able to locate their lost children, and she did not believe there was much chance he ever got out of the camp. After drinking heavily, the pair went back to the hotel to sleep. In the middle of the night, Sophie woke Stingo up and asked him to have sex with her. He eagerly complied, and they spent the rest of the time enthusiastically making love. In the morning when Stingo woke up, Sophie was gone.

Stingo hurried downstairs and learned from the hotel staff, who had overheard a phone call, that Sophie had gotten up early and returned to Brooklyn to reunite with Nathan. Stingo later pieced together what had happened: at some point while he and Sophie were travelling, Nathan returned to the boarding house without anyone noticing and waited there in Sophie’s room. Morris heard the sound of music coming from Sophie’s room but didn’t know whether that meant Nathan was there or not. As a result, he hesitated about whether he should call Larry even though he had been instructed to do so. While Morris debated, Sophie emerged from the room and asked him to go and get her a bottle of whiskey. Morris did so and left it outside the door and then went to take a nap. When he woke up, the alcohol was still outside the door, so he phoned Larry, and the two men broke down the door after no one responded to their cries.

When Stingo first found that Sophie had fled back to Brooklyn, he brooded at the hotel for a while and then decided to go south without her. He didn’t get very far, however, before he panicked and hurried back to New York. Once he began this journey northward, Stingo became fearful of what was going to happen to Sophie. By the time he arrived at the boarding house, there were ambulances and police outside. Larry caught sight of Stingo and let him go inside, where Stingo found Nathan and Sophie lying in bed together. They had killed themselves by taking sodium cyanide.

Nathan and Sophie were buried side by side. Stingo read an Emily Dickinson poem at the funeral. Afterwards, he went to Coney Island, where he immersed himself in memories. He wept on the beach before finally falling asleep there. The next morning, he awoke and wrote a line of poetry.

Analysis: Chapters Fourteen–Sixteen

Stingo and Sophie’s willingness to readily reconcile with Nathan reflects their co-dependent and masochistic tendencies. They were both shamed and hurt by the way Nathan treated them, and by now they both know about Nathan’s violent history. However, they put these feelings aside because they crave the comfortable routine that Nathan offers to them. Stingo is sometimes critical of Sophie’s passivity, but he is just as willing to reconcile with Nathan, which shows that Stingo also falls prey to a desire for a reassuring masculine presence in his life. In the absence of Stingo’s father, Nathan fills the void of a male role model in Stingo’s life. Nathan offering Stingo money also creates a dynamic of dominance in their relationship. Stingo interprets the money as a sign that his writing is being valued and is too naïve to realize that Nathan is likely buying his silence and complicity.