“Literature is an education is sympathy.”
Today, my English professor nonchalantly dropped this bomb of wisdom on me and then kept talking like something awesome hadn’t just happened.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the past few years. Whenever I finish a particularly good book or series, I am wrecked. Like wholly, savagely wrecked. Despondent to the point where I start to question why I even put myself through the whole reading experience. (I realize this sounds really lame if you’re not a girl with ~300 books stacked in your bedroom and a Tumblr feed completely comprised of book quotes and cheesy Percy Jackson fan art. I do not care.)
But it’s interesting to me that books can affect us this deeply. And that we continually go back to them. Literature is a way to understand human nature and, through all the books I’ve read, I realized that sympathy makes up a much bigger part of that than we would guess. You share in someone else’s feelings, whether determinedly or not.
I think that is part of the reason that books and characters and make-believe can influence me so much. We all have a dose of sympathy within us. Reading great books just makes us more aware of it and more apt to feel it.
I felt it when Harry saw his parents in the mirror of Erised. I felt it when Hazel found that letter at the end of Tfios. I felt it when Elizabeth read Darcy’s letter and it made me want to die. It wasn’t like I was an observer. I was inside of the action. Those make-believe emotions were real. And I think that’s incredible. We could be walking around, trapped in our own small, limited world, but instead we get to live so many different lives and feel everything. I really believe that all boils down to sympathy.
Hats off to all the people who think I’m crazy after this blog post. If you don’t think I’m crazy, then maybe you were feeling sympathetic to me. Perhaps we shared a moment of emotional equilibrium.
Or I’m just crazy.