Is there a term for getting too emotionally involved in works of fiction?

Twice this week I’ve found myself in tears while under the influence of some play or epic poem. First Hector died and left poor sweet Andromache a widow, which had me sniffling for the last chapter or so of The Iliad.

Then I read Our Town, the notoriously normal play by Thornton Wilder, which chronicles the above average love of an average couple who lived simplistically beautiful lives. The girl, Emily, dies in childbirth only a few years after being married to her high school sweetheart. I saw this play performed on campus last year and barely sniffed once, but now, reading Emily’s plaintive posthumous lines:

“Mama, just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s look at one another….I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed.”.

I confess to having to stop and wring my eyelids out.

The last time I wept freely over a piece of prose was when I read Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. The tiger in question comes to an unfortunate end, and my eleven-year-old self couldn’t handle the emotional strain. But now, as a twenty-year-old, I find myself strangely moved by every blessed thing, whether I read it, hear it, see it, or even taste it.

This may be a symptom that I am finally coming unwound. Or I need more sleep. Or both.


6 responses »

  1. Part of the function of fiction is to get lost in that world. Not gonna’ lie, I cried when Sherlock Holmes “died” in The Final Problem when I was about 12. I had just read all the stories up until that one. When I finished that story, I went to my room and cried… And then my mom told me that he comes back and there are more stories. Yep.

    So it might be biased to so say, but, yeah, it’s normal 🙂

  2. Yep. Pretty sure I was ticked at Achilles for “trashing” Hector’s body … I mean, I understand being distraught over Patroclus, but, especially after the discussion of Hector and Andromache on Wednesday, I was a mess during that last chapter, however much I just wanted the book to finally end! 😛
    If you want another tear-jerker you HAVE to read “Fearless” by Eric Blehm. It’s about the life story of an incredible Navy SEAL, Adam Brown. Eric relates Adam’s conversion and then involvement in SEAL Team 6 … it especially touched me because Adam and his family were based right where I live in VA Beach and members at a church right down the road from me!

  3. I don’t think you’re abnormal or psychotic–but you may have inherited some weepy genes from dear ole mumsie. I weep openly at all kinds of stories. Whenever I teach Uncle Tom’s Cabin, I’m a mess. I know what’s going to happen, and I still cry. It’s the words that make me cry. I think that’s what’s going on with your response to “Our Town.” You saw the play–the action–and it didn’t move you to tears. That’s no reflection on the performers, but it is a reflection on your reaction to the words themselves. That’s the writer’s power over his audience

  4. The Dadster Ripostes:

    Truly, the quill is more potent than the claymore!


    There is a reason that the Holy God of Heaven identifies Himself as The Word.

    He made us to communicate with Him–in words!

    Our hearts (if they be not overwrought with wickedness) are responsive to words: His words! Words of the poor pleading with us. Words of our friends teasing with us. Words of our family members telling us of the most mundane things life can bring.

    Faith, at its core, means this: Taking God at His WORD!

    Confession, at its core, means this: Agreeing with God based on His WORD!

    The Lord Jesus is identified by this name: In the beginning was the WORD.

    Do words touch you? Be thankful. Words are the foolish path that the God of Heaven has chosen to reach the hearts of men.

    (For the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men! I speak only what Paul spoke.)


    The Dadster

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