Living with strangers
Over the last centuries, cities have grown bigger and bigger due to the increasing amount of jobs in the cities. The big city is a big change to people that comes from smaller towns – so it is to Siri Hustvedt. In the essay “Living with strangers” Siri writes about some the conflicts which urban living creates.
The story can be divided into three sections; the narrators’ personal story, examples of the big city law and lastly the stories about alternatives to the pretend-it-isn’t-happening law.
For a person foreign to urban living it can be hard to accept the coldness that seems to be dominating among the citizens of big cities like New York. It is the same feeling Siri Hustvedt had when she first moved to the big city. Especially the intimacy of living in a block of apartments was strange to the image she had of private life from her childhood, where only boyfriends and family were allowed to get as close to her as her neighbors are now.
“I found myself in intimate contact with people I didn’t know, my body pressed so tightly against them, I could smell their hair oils, perfumes, and sweat. In my former life, such closeness belonged exclusively to boyfriends and family. It didn’t take long for me to absorb the unwritten code of survival in this town (…) PRETEND IT ISN’T HAPPENING.”
By writing personal stories like this, Siri gets the readers interest and it also makes it easier to relate to the essay when it is written as so.
I think it is stories, from the urban life, like the one Siri has about the violent smoker on the subway car that changes the way people think of urban living. It makes them become afraid of interfering with other peoples’ life and therefore make them subscribe, as Siri calls it, to the pretend-it-isn’t-happening law and it’s not hard to understand why they do so. We all know the situations where we have to choose between interfering and ignoring, sometimes interfering can be dangerous like in this story. It...