29 pages 58 minutes read

Susan Sontag

The Way We Live Now

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1986

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Essay Topics


The protagonist of the story is not given a name or major identifiable character traits. Does this make him an Everyman (a character who represents any or every person), or a No Man (a character who functions as a symbol rather than a person)?


How is the number of voices in the story significant to the story’s treatment of the effects of an AIDS diagnosis? If the story were a conversation between only two people, would it convey the same meaning and tone?


“The Way We Live Now” is set during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s but refers only to “the disease” rather than to AIDS specifically. How does the use of euphemism allow post-2020 readers to consider the story through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic? How does the story change if “the disease” is COVID instead of AIDS?