This essay examines some of the ways that narratives produce sympathy in readers. First, I compare several models that have been proposed to explain how fictional texts structure readers' emotional responses. In this connection, I highlight some of the ways that narratological analyses of fictional narratives can complement approaches to the study of reader response that rely exclusively, or heavily, on psychological assumptions. I demonstrate some of the advantages of a narratologically based approach by analyzing in detail Toni Cade Bambara's short story “The Hammer Man.” I contend that Bambara's story systematically moves readers from dislike to sympathy for the story's protagonist. In order to verify my claims about the story's effect on readers, I also review the results of tests that I conducted to measure subjects' levels of sympathy at the beginning and the end of the story. Finally, I discuss some of the implications of the test results for literary studies.

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