Kingston's Essay 'No Name Woman'

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Bizarre Sympathy: The Limitations of Empathy Parents and teachers generally attempt to impart pro-social values on their children and students. At the core of many of these values is empathy: the capacity to understand how someone else feels. Empathy develops in part on its own as children become less egocentric and gain the ability to see themselves at others. Many believe that empathy can also be cultivated by teaching a child to put herself into another person’s situation and imagine how she would feel. The technique mimics empathy, but does not necessarily create a genuine sense of empathy. In many situations barriers, such as different cultures or experiences, prevent one from genuinely empathize with another person. As individuals grow older, they internalize this mechanized empathy and, in turn, fail to empathize in situations where perhaps sympathy: the capacity to feel sorry for another’s situation, would be a preferable response. Maxine Hong Kingston, a first generation Chinese-American, reflects on her struggle to empathize, across cultural boundaries, with her aunt, in her essay, “No Name Woman.” The essay opens with a vivid recollection of a memory in which Kingston’s mother tells Kingston about her “no name” aunt. Until that point in her life, Kingston had never heard…show more content…
Rather, it is mechanized empathy. Sympathy can connote feeling sadness for others, but the definition has no particular relation to sadness. More accurately, sympathy means being in touch with another’s feelings. In order to achieve this, one must know how the other person feels, and there are only two ways to understand how another person feels: to empathize or to simply ask her. Should others simply ask Kingsolver how she feels about her family situation, they would learn that Kingsolver feels both pride and joy about her family. What Kingsolver describes though, appears to be others failing to properly

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