Developing empathy through literature

The commentary on Nov 2 ("Importance of literature education for the future") resonated with me as my journey as a junior college literature student draws to a close.

Beyond literature's value as a subject that demands rigour in identifying nuances, critical analysis and evaluation, the peerless beauty of it lies in how one is encouraged to step into the shoes of not merely archetypal stereotypes but delightfully complex, multi-faceted characters, as well.

Literature has cultivated in me a special kind of empathy - that no matter how big of a failure someone might seem to be, we should not be so quick to judge, especially if the person's circumstances are not fully known to us.

This is most pertinent in our meritocratic society, where it is easy to dismiss someone as undeserving of sympathy, should he not be able to measure up against society's standards.

Studying literature has helped me to appreciate the subtle beauty of the struggles between and within human beings. It compels me to attempt to understand myself and others as human, rather than to define them by their inadequacies.

I hope that our students will be actively encouraged to pursue the literary arts and embrace the fresh perspectives that the field opens us to.

Nicole Louise Ng Su Wen (Miss), 18, second-year junior college student

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2015, with the headline 'Developing empathy through literature'. Print Edition | Subscribe