Sympathy, Disability, and the Nurse: Female Power in Edith Wharton’s The Fruit of the Tree [Book Review]

Journal of Medical Humanities 31 (3):223-242 (2010)


The nursing profession’s emphasis on empathy as essential to nursing care may undermine nurses’ power as a collective and detract from perceptions of nurses’ analytical skills and expertise. The practice of empathy may also obscure and even compound patients’ suffering when it does not fully account for their subjectivity. This essay examines the relation of empathy to women’s agency and explores the role empathy plays in obscuring rather than empowering the suffering other, particularly people who are disabled, through a close reading of Edith Wharton’s 1907 novel, The Fruit of the Tree, and through discussions of empathy and sympathy from literary and disability studies

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