Living with Strangers Analysis

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B. Living With Strangers

In 2011 8,244,910 people were living in one of the United States’ most famous cities: New York. New York has the highest population density in the United States with over 27000 people per square mile and it is estimated that 200 languages are spoken in the city. In a city with so many people, different cultures, and languages converts may have difficulties with growing accustomed to a city full of strangers. The American novelist and essayist, Siri Hustvedt, debates in the essay “Living With Strangers” from The New York Times, 2002, the complications and challenges an urbanite must overcome in a large city’s society. The main theme in the essay is the ability to show humanity in a city full of strangers. In this essay I will analyse and comment on the essay “Living With Strangers”.

By way of introduction Siri Hustvedt describes how everyone in her hometown, Minnesota, greeted when they met even though it was somebody they did not know. The author quickly moves on to an anecdote from when she first moved to New York. The anecdote describes how she in her apartment is a witness to her neighbours’ private acts such as a heated argument and walking around in underwear. Even though she sees and hears these intimate moments she does not know the people around her and therefore she is “living with strangers”. What Siri Hustvedt unintentionally experiences in her apartment may seem transcendent but at least her apartment’s walls protect her from a confrontation with the people she is overhearing. These walls cannot protect her in public and Siri Hustvedt finds herself in intimate contact with people she does not know “In my former life, such closeness belonged exclusively to boyfriends and family.” (Ll. 16-17) To survive these transcendent experiences the New Yorkers follow the unspoken law “PRETEND IT ISN’T HAPPENING”. Siri Hustvedt tells three stories where either she or someone she knows has experienced the pretend-it-isn’t-happening...
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