Create a new account

It's simple, and free.

Several Short Stories & Reader Empathy

Samuel Johnson makes the statement, "Nothing can please many and please long but just representations of general nature." Johnson is indicating the characteristics necessary to a literary work for it to endure the test of time, and the nature of such a literary work is that it must reveal and explore situations and characteristics that are recognizable, that most readers share, and that are common to people across boundaries of space and time. The meaning of this statement by Johnson could be misunderstood. He is not stating that what is written should be common to the experience of all in terms of events but rather in terms of human nature and its manifestation in a given situation. An examination of several short stories that have endured shows that what appeals in these stories over time and across geographic boundaries is not a story with details that mirror the experiences of readers but characters with characteristics recognizable by the reader and with which the reader feels empathy and shares a sense of reality.

The fact that Ambrose Bierce's story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" includes a supernatural element is not proof that the story does not fit Johnson's prescription, for what is more important is the underlying nature of the main character, the fact that his predicament is understandable to the reader, and the manner in which the author creates this character, conveys his hopes and fears, and demonstrates his humanity. The same is true of the people lost on the sea in "The Open Boat," and it is not necessary that readers have had this same experience but only that they recognize the reality of the human beings they are introduced to here and empathize with them as fellow human beings.

The story that might represent the most common set of experiences among the stories under discussion is Ernest Hemingway's "A Clean-Well-Lighted Place," yet this does not mean that this story alone will survive the test of...

Page 1 of 6 Next >

More on Several Short Stories & Reader Empathy...

APA     MLA     Chicago
Several Short Stories & Reader Empathy. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 13:31, May 29, 2020, from