Why do I empathize more with the characters of a good book, or any book as a matter of fact, than people in real life??

My recent read, Oliver Twist, as everyone knows is filled with mounts of empathy for Oliver and every boy who resides in the workhouse. Now I’ve felt for Oliver all along the book, but knowing he is to have a happy ending didn’t let me get into his sorrows as much. But I’ve felt it immensely with the boy “Dick”.

Dick is a child of workhouse, who is ill and is bound to die some time soon. In the chapter where Mr.Bumble sets to leave for London, he visits Mrs Mann. Here the boy is asked what does he want and he replies as such..

‘I should like to leave my dear love to the poor Oliver Twist; and let him know how often I have sat by myself and cried to think of his wandering about in the dark nights with nobody to help him. And I should like to tell him’, said the child, pressing his small hands together, and speaking with great fervor, ‘that I was glad to die when I was very young, for, perhaps, if I had lived to be a man, and had grown old, my little sister who is in Heaven, might forget me, or be unlike me; and it would be so much happier if we were both children there together’

Out of the entire read, its right here that I shed a tear and had to just pause for a minute. This wasn’t the first time I felt this heavily for characters of book. There were many a times where a scene or a dialogue was so intense I just had to close the book. I even sobbed for a good few minutes when Chuck dies in the Maze Runner(I still haven’t read the sequel)

When I can feel such a great empathy and pain for some fictional characters, why am I so cold to people’s pain in real life??

I am not even being too hard on myself when I say that, I really lack empathy, just in real life, where I seem to be showering it on people from books. I am not cruel either on people. I am just numb at times to other people’s pain. Now why doesn’t that numbness apply to the books I am reading.

When I told my boyfriend about the sobbing over death of Chuck, his reaction was, “darling, try to feel that for real people, please!” Such a sweetheart he is. I totally agree with him, which got me thinking Why can’t I empathize with people IRL??

I found an answer, yay, I don’t know if it’s valid or makes sense, but here it is.

When you read something and you feel for that character, it is only because you know everything about that person in the book. At least that is what is your idea, unless some big plot twist comes. Till that point you feel like you know the character completely, which for most of the times is true, whereas in real life, no matter how much you know a person, there is a part you can never truly understand. That blank space does not exist with a character, so when they get hurt or feel pain, so do you; but when a person gets hurt you would be drifted to the part where there is information missing and you cannot sympathize for them.

Nonetheless I strongly believe in being kind to everyone, even to those who don’t deserve it. But as said earlier I cannot completely sympathize with them. I hope that explains the facts and makes me to be not as cold as I think I am, but I highly doubt it 😀 😀


Grace Anne



4 thoughts on “Empathizing more for characters than IRL people

  1. My thought about your quandary over empathy is that it is safe to feel for characters in books and movies and even commercials, so you can let your guard down and feel. My two cents worth.

    I’ll never forget reading Willa Cather’s “Death Comes for the Archbishop.” I sat and sobbed for what seemed like forever after his funeral. For me, the trigger was knowing that he was so loved by so many.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess that also could be a factor!! Feeling safe about getting so emotional and vulnerable is really rare and characters can’t really use our emotions back to us. Thank you for taking out time to read and comment😊😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Maybe it is also, besides your own answer, patience for people that matter? Some people matter and some people don’t. It takes time and patience to get to know someone and real life events to trigger something in you to let someone matter. So empathy is also a choice and everyone’s own choice how fast empathy (sympathy even) is given. Well, generally, I think, as there also are people who can’t feel any, also not from books 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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