29 pages 58 minutes read

Susan Sontag

The Way We Live Now

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1986

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Literary Devices


The subtlety of Sontag’s satire makes the device particularly effective. As a genre and a literary device, satire often relies on exaggeration to render its subject ridiculous and, thus, deserving of censure. The satire of “The Way We Live Now” utilizes irony and ridicule to make its point. The protagonist remains unnamed and rarely speaks for himself, yet dozens of his friends are identified by name and given voices. This diverse cast of characters also fails to ask what the protagonist wants or needs, even while they are visiting him and professing to care for and support him. As their conversations become increasingly petty and they revert to bickering and shallow comments, the characters are shown to be ridiculous, and the insincerity and selfishness of these purported caregivers is exposed as the true subject of criticism.


In literature, juxtaposition is used to offer a narrative contrast between two or more objects, events, ideas, or people. In “The Way We Live Now,” the character Max serves as a juxtaposed subject to the unnamed