As Christians we are called to treat all individuals with understanding and compassion, extending to them the same unmerited favor that God has extended to those who follow Him. But how do we extend a sense of understanding to those whose personalities and experiences are quite different from our own? The answer lies in developing a sense of empathy for those around us.The field of psychology provides many definitions for empathy. In an article discussing empathy as presented through children's literature, psychologist Feshback defines it [sharing] an emotional response with another as well as the ability to discriminate the other's perspective and role (qtd. in Cress 594). The same article cites another definition provided by Einsberg and Strayer: an emotional response that stems from another's emotional state or condition and is congruent with the other's emotional state or situation (qtd. in Cress 594).
[...] He is sick and deserves attention attention his father has not given him and will also be the master of the manor when his father dies if he himself lives through his childhood, which no one expects to happen. Colin reacts to the fearful beliefs of others and adopts the victimized role that most of the other characters place on him, which is especially highlighted in the scene when Mary stands up to Colin's selfish and jealous nature, becoming the first person in his life to not give into him. [...]
[...] The Melendy quartet of Then There Were Five present empathy in the form of reaching out to the less fortunate among us. The four children have been raised in a loving and supportive home environment; although their father is often absent for great lengths of time, it is obvious that he deeply loves his children when he is able to be home with them. The Melendy children have been raised to be self-sufficient in a trusting and supportive family environment. [...]
[...] Themes of empathy can be found throughout children's literature, and in this paper I will be examining the empathetic themes in Tom's Midnight Garden, Then There Were Five, and The Secret Garden. The characters in each of these stories develop empathy in different ways and through different circumstances, but all demonstrate the gracious ability to look past an individual's misconstrued actions and personality and into the circumstances that shaped them into the characters they became. In Tom's Midnight Garden, the title character develops empathy through his nightly time travels in his aunt and uncle's strange apartment building. [...]
[...] The reader develops an early sense of empathy for Mary, which makes her own empathetic realizations later in the story even more meaningful. When Mary moves from the devastated India to her uncle Mr. Craven's manor in England, she arrives criticizing her surroundings and the few people she has to interact with. She is appalled at Martha's informal behavior as a maid and is irritated by her chattiness at first, but necessity soon drives Mary to learn to be accepting of others. [...]
[...] The themes of empathy and seeing beyond one's first impression are carried beyond just the previously mentioned scene in Tom's Midnight Garden. Upon Tom's arrival to his aunt and uncle's flat he is warned about the unsociable and irritable landlady, Mrs. Bartholomew, who values peace and quiet and is highly protective of the grandfather clock in the foyer on the first floor. Tom's aunt and uncle warn him to be as unobtrusive as possible in the apartment building; most of the tenants in the building seem wary of their landlady. [...]
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