stack of books and open notebook. Label: Quotation

The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy


Headshot: Jane Smiley. An older woman with light skin, gray short hair, and wire-rimmed rectangular glasses.

“There’s a difference between empathy and sympathy. Sympathy is when you feel an alignment with a particular character. Empathy is when you see things from that character’s point of view. Larry Cook [the Lear-like father in A Thousand Acres] is someone I don’t have any sympathy for, but I needed to have empathy in order to portray him.”

Jane Smiley

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