Activation of Empathy Feelings in Raymond Carver’s "A Small, Good Thing"

TitleActivation of Empathy Feelings in Raymond Carver’s "A Small, Good Thing"
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
JournalSelçuk Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Dergisi (SEFAD) / Selçuk University Journal of Faculty of Letters
Start Page265
Date Published12/2017
Type of ArticleResearch
KeywordsA Small, Good Thing, empathy (affective and cognitive) / sympathy, narrative and emotion, Raymond Carver., reader

Raymond Carver’s A Small, Good Thing portrays affective and cognitive empathy feelings between the characters. The narrative presents affective discourse in two situations. The protagonist Ann’s empathy with her husband and with a Negro family enables her to communicate with them through sharing their mental states. Likewise, the narrative represents two situations in which cognitive empathy is generated. Dr. Francis’s awareness about Ann’s mental state alleviates her suffering. Additionally, when, at the narrative’s end, Ann and her husband tell the baker the news of their son’s death and he tells them his own childless life story, they mutually show cognitive empathy toward each other through identification of their mental states. My essay argues that engagement with evoked cognitive and affective empathy feelings between the characters in Carver’s story is likely to generate narrative reader’s cognitive empathy. Carver’s narrative has the potential to elicit a reader’s cognitive empathy through manipulation of the narrative perspective and representation of a familiar emotion, sadness evoked by death, as well as anthropomorphic or human-like reactions to this emotion.


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