Purpose of Paper
This essay fulfilled the requirements of ENG 472, the Capstone for the English Literature Major. In the essay, I explore the relationship between empathy and emotional disconnection at an individual and collective level by comparing two contemporary British novels set in London: NW by Zadie Smith and Remainder by Tom McCarthy. I analyze the protagonists’ incapacity to achieve balance between empathy and disconnection; their failed self-confrontation, or lack thereof obstructs individual and collective growth and mobility. As a result of the protagonists’ internal battles in NW and Remainder’s narrator who disassociates from his self, the protagonists carve their paths into ruts – stuck internally, socially, and geographically. Both novels confront empathy through their narrators’ emotional distance and emotional incapacities, surfacing issues of socio-economic and individual stagnation, and the cyclical nature of generational social class. The protagonists’ experiences within the city reinforce the reality of social immobility; in effect, the protagonists’ distance and false, or non-existent, empathy towards their world, critiques how individuals trap themselves in mindset and geography, repeating patterns rather than breaking them. Individual and collective forced empathy towards the socially immobile reinforces this cycle; thus individuals see clearly the ingenuity of forced empathy, which inflates societal tensions, inhibiting mobility.
Hutchison, Lilia, "The Intersections of Empathy and Mobility" (2018). FODL Library Research Awards. 8.