Comments and discussion

We have gathered some suggestions for elements you might want to comment on or discuss in your own analysis of Hustvedt’s essay “Living With Strangers”. As always, you should argue systematically for your opinion and avoid making personal or emotional statements.

The writer argues that it is simply necessary to ignore one another in a big city with so many people with whom you often have nothing in common. In connection with this, you might want to discuss the potential consequences of sticking to the “Pretend Law”. If we systematically teach ourselves to pretend that the people around us do not exist and do not matter, then what happens to our sense of morality and basic humanity? The media sometimes report incidents where someone was assaulted in a public space but without anyone intervening and helping out the victims. Stories like that are sad and scary.

On top of this, we see an increase in psychological problems like stress, depression, and loneliness, and it is often argued that it is easier to sit alone with problems like these in a big city where the people around you might not know you very well.

In connection with your discussion of potential consequences, a term like “alienation” might be interesting for you to include. Alienation is when an individual feels strangely distanced from important elements in his or her life such as job, personality, or the local community. Experts argue that the level of alienation is rising due to a number of factors. More and more people live in big cities with little contact to their neighbors and family; more people live alone; and ideologies like individualism and capitalism very much influence our culture right now, which means that concepts like solidarity and community risk being downgraded.

In continuation of this, you might want to discussion potential alternatives to Hustvedt’s “Pretend Law”. The writer suggests the obvious herself: that we should simply remember to relate to one another from time to time. The question is how much? Perhaps there is a limit to how much stimuli the human mind can process? After the rise of mobile phone...

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