A while back I read something—it might have been in a book, but I’m pretty sure it was in a post or article online somewhere —that put a name to the emotional response a reader or viewer may have to a particularly moving part of the story. You know, the way you tear up at an episode of Little House on the Prairie. (What, you don’t tear up at those? My husband mocks me ruthlessly because I always, always, always do.) Or an old Hallmark commercial. Or the ending of Stone Fox.
If you’re a sap, like me, then you get choked up easily—for me it’s whenever someone in the book or movie makes a kind of noble gesture or sacrifice, like when Jo March sells her hair, or when Hugh Grant’s character walks onstage with the guitar during Marcus’s excruciating talent show performance in About a Boy. Whatever it was I read recently, it named this response and described it in a way I hadn’t heard articulated before, and it made me go YES! That’s IT!
Not catharsis—that’s deeper, more enduring, and is usually a response to a serious and intense event in a story, not the often cheap plot points that elicit my sappy tears. But a real and definable response nonetheless, with (probably) a Greek term to name it. Not sentimentality, though of course that is closely related. A response to a noble act, that’s the part I remember. Is this ringing any bells? Did any of you read the post I’m half-remembering?
I was trying to think of it today when my girls were teasing me for getting choked up while reading aloud Gloria Whelan’s picture book, The Miracle of Saint Nicholas. Every year, we read this, and every year I cry.
If you don’t know what article I’m talking about, then how about chiming in with your favorite sentimental, move-you-to-tears moments in books and movies?
“A generation ago, there was no general conspiracy among writers to protect children.”
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