58 pages 1 hour read

Morley Callaghan

All the Years of Her Life

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1936

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The Development of Empathy

Empathy—both in the sense of intuiting others’ thoughts and feelings and in the sense of sympathizing with them—is central to the story. This focus on empathy becomes apparent early on in Mr. Sam Carr’s characterization; despite feeling betrayed by the young man, Mr. Carr confronts Alfred Higgins’s shoplifting with calm patience and hesitancy to call the police. Looking worried, Mr. Carr tells Alfred, “I don’t like to call a cop point-blank” (17), because he knows this action could have significant ramifications for the young man. Mr. Carr places himself in Alfred’s shoes and seems to reason that the young man may not deserve the stigma of a criminal record. He perceives him, accurately, as a “fool”: someone who is thoughtless but not malicious.

Mrs. Higgins’s behavior and dialogue in the drugstore scene further develop the theme. As she appeals to Mr. Carr on Alfred’s behalf, Mrs. Higgins does so with a literally gentle touch, seeking to understand his perspective: “Mrs. Higgins put out her hand and touched Mr. Carr’s arm with an understanding gentleness, […] speaking as though afraid of disturbing him” (17). She understands Mr. Carr’s initial impulse to “get a cop” and diplomatically leaves this decision to Mr.

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