Limited Sympathy

The Lifted Veil is written in first person with small breaks in which Latimer writes directly to the reader imploring them to listen to him and his advice. The most noticeable of these breaks is when he asks the reader, “Are you unable to give me your sympathy – you who read this?…Yet you must have known something of the presentiments that spring from an insight at war with passion, and my visions were only like presentiments intensified to horror” (Eliot 21). In calling out the reader for being unable to give their sympathy Latimer shows that he knows sympathy is difficult to produce, especially for himself. Directing this passage to the reader is important as Latimer tries to change our perceptions and ideas about himself. True sympathy by nature cannot be forced or conjured on request, but this is exactly what Latimer is imploring readers to do for him.

Yet if we follow Smith’s theories on sympathy we will see that it actually is difficult for readers to sympathize with Latimer’s situation because it is such a unique and unusual predicament. Smith claims that sympathy is the imagining of oneself in the shoes of another person. He writes that our senses “never can, carry us beyond our own person, and it is by imagination only that we can form any conception of what are his sensations” (Smith 1.1.2). By this definition it should be impossible for readers to feel equitable sympathy for Latimer because that is outside a state which they are able to imagine. It is also noticeable that this is exactly the kind of sympathy that Latimer experiences. He feels the emotions of others as if they were his own regardless of whether they are beyond his own person or not.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *