Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Adam Mars-Jones has established a reputation as a chronicler of the AIDS crisis, an explorer in fiction of the consequences that the advent of the disease has had on the lives of gay people. With American novelist Edmund White, he cowrote the short story collection The Darker Proof: Stories from a Crisis (1987) as well as his own book, Monopolies of Loss (1992), which includes the story “Bears in Mourning.”

One implication of the crisis at the time of this tale, in the early years not long after the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) had been identified as the retrovirus that causes AIDS, involves how much this health threat obsessed and energized the gay community. Following a period of confused panic, gay people marshaled their forces in a collective effort to care for the sick, dispose of the dead, and memorialize loved ones. It was the author’s own experience caring for AIDS patients that served as a catalyst for his writing about this subject.

By the end of the story, the narrator admits that perhaps at “any other time” the group might have grieved over Victor’s unhappy end, but unfortunately he chose to take his life during a period when not only his fellow “bears” but also all gay men were overwhelmed with the collective tragedy of AIDS. “Didn’t Victor know there was a war on?” the narrator asks. In this time of active contention between man and disease, the group saw Victor as a “traitor” who...

(The entire section is 521 words.)