How to Feel Deeper Through Literature- Kari West

“Good stories make us feel differently and more deeply about the things we’ve known all along,” said Dr. Jonathan Rogers at a recent guest lecture I attended at Southeastern Seminary. In light of his succinct summary of how great tales can enlarge our souls, I wanted to share quotes from five of my favorite novels. Each story can help you feel more deeply about something that perhaps you’ve known all along.

1. How to feel deeper about the hard right choice: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

“I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man…Laws and principles are not for times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?”

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2. How to feel deeper about loving your enemy: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.”

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3. How to feel deeper about the world to come: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

“I moved ever higher on the land, here entering an orchard of immense and archaic beauty. I say orchard: The trees were dense in one place, scattered in another, as though planted by random throw, but all were heavy trunked and capaciously limbed, and they were fruit trees, every one of them. Apples, gold-skinned apricots, immaculate pears. The leaves about them were thick and cool and stirred at my approach; touched with a finger, they imparted a palpable rhythm…

The place had a master! Realizing this, I knew he was already aware of me—comforting and fearful knowledge. Still I wanted to see him. The farther I went the more I seemed to know or remember about him—the way he’d planted this orchard, walking over the hills, casting seed from his hand.”

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4. How to feel deeper about ordinary, well-lived lives: Middlemarch by George Eliot

“…the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”


5. How to feel deeper about loving your neighbor: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

“There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality. It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal.”