Many scholars forget ... that our enjoyment of the great works of literature depends more upon the depth of our sympathy than upon our understanding. ... very few of their laborious explanations stick in the memory. The mind drops them as a branch drops its overripe fruit.
(Helen Keller (1880-1968), U.S. author. The Story of My Life, ch. 20 (1905).
Keller was rendered deaf and blind at the age of nineteen months. But in 1904, she had graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College.)
Women ought to feel a peculiar sympathy in the colored man's wrong, for, like him, she has been accused of mental inferiority, and denied the privileges of a liberal education.
(Angelina Grimké (1805-1879), U.S. abolitionist and feminist. As quoted in The Grimke Sisters from South Carolina, ch. 10, by Gerda Lerner (1967).
From a paper prepared for a May 1837 antislavery convention of women. Grimke, the daughter of a South Carolina slaveowner, had severed relations with her family and moved North.)
Children learn to care by experiencing good care. They come to know the blessings of gentleness, or sympathy, of patience and kindness, of support and backing first through the way in which they themselves are treated.
(James L. Hymes, Jr. (20th century), U.S. child psychologist and author. Teaching the Child Under Six, ch. 3 (1968).)
Perhaps nothing is so depressing an index of the inhumanity of the male-supremacist mentality as the fact that the more genial human traits are assigned to the underclass: affection, response to sympathy, kindness, cheerfulness.
(Kate Millet (b. 1934), U.S. feminist, author. Sexual Politics, ch. 4 (1970).
Of a table of character traits assignable to male and female roles.)
It is due to justice; due to humanity; due to truth; to the sympathies of our nature; in fine, to our character as a people, both abroad and at home, that they should be considered, as much as possible, in the light of human beings, and not as mere property.
(James Madison (1751-1836), U.S. president. Speaking of the slaves in Virginia. The Mind of the Founder: Sources of the Political Thought of James Madison, p. 514, ed. Marvin Meyers, Indianapolis (1973).)
... while many people pride themselves, and with no exaggeration, on their ability to hear with sympathy of the downfall, sickness, and death of others, very few people seem to know what to do with a report of joy, happiness, good luck.
(Jessamyn West (1902-1984), U.S. novelist. To See the Dream, part 2 (1956).)
While it may not heighten our sympathy, wit widens our horizons by its flashes, revealing remote hidden affiliations and drawing laughter from far afield; humor, in contrast, strikes up fellow feeling, and though it does not leap so much across time and space, enriches our insight into the universal in familiar things, lending it a local habitation and a name.