Automatic for the People tells the story of a life in reverse.
"Drive" is more of an intro to the album and a summation of its themes (aging, loss, grief), so it's not a part of the story. Gender is pretty ambiguous in this album and Michael Stipe is bisexual so the genders of the narrator and his or her significant other are by no means certain, but I went with the idea of the main character being gay because of "Monty Got a Raw Deal."
- "Find the River" - A child is preparing to go out into the world. Most likely he's just finished high school and is being given advice by his parent, who is telling him how dangerous but wonderful the world can be, and it's his now ("all of this is coming your way").
- "Nightswimming" - He's off at college partying and having an overall good time.
- "Man on the Moon" - He goes through something of an crisis, contemplating his own philosophies and struggling with his faith; graduates from college.
- "Star Me Kitten" - The narrator moves in with his boyfriend.
- "Ignoreland" - He gets involved with political movements and protests.
- "Monty Got a Raw Deal" - He starts getting worried that he'll lose his career or alienate his friends because of his sexuality.
- "Sweetness Follows" - His parents die.
- "New Orleans Instrumental No. 1" - He goes through a period of suicidal depression and grief.
- "Everybody Hurts" - His boyfriend helps him to recover from his depression.
- "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" - He lives, happy and prosperous, for many years.
- "Try Not to Breathe" - At a very old age, he suffers from a terminal illness and subjects himself to a Mercy Kill rather than prolong his suffering.