Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being: Lightness vs. Heaviness

Topics: The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera, Love Pages: 5 (1263 words) Published: December 5, 2014
Brittany Stuberfield
Professor Woehler
Enc 1102
November 5, 2014

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being opens with a philosophical discussion of lightness versus heaviness. Kundera contrasts Nietzsche's philosophy of eternal return, or of heaviness, with Parmenides's understanding of life as light. Kundera wonders if any meaning or weight can be attributed to life, since there is no eternal return: if man only has the opportunity to try one path, to make one decision, he cannot return to take a different path, and then compare the two lives. Without the ability to compare lives, Kundera argues, we cannot find meaning; where meaning should exist we find only an unbearable weightlessness. The uncertain existence of meaning, and the opposition of lightness and heaviness, the key dichotomy of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, sets the stage for the entire novel.

The main characters in the film are Tomas, Teresa, and Sabina they were all round characters besides Tomas, who was not because he stayed the same during the whole film. . Round characters are complex and undergo development, sometimes sufficiently to surprise the reader. For example, Tomas is a surgeon living in Prague. Even though he is married he still continue to have endless string of sexual encounters with new and unknown women. The narrator tries to not judge him so he analyze that Tomas is not sex-crazed, the narrator explains the reasons behind Tomas womanizing. Tomas is a male that is always in control which makes him more interesting on the film, he says a line in film “making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are to separate passions, not different but opposite, love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation.

Tereza represents purity and innocence that lead Tomas to see her as "child put in a basket and sent downstream" for him to find. Tereza is waiting for someone like Tomas to appear even before she meets him; even after she meets him, his constant betrayals mean she must frequently wait for him to return. The two love each other deeply, but make each other miserable. Tereza is not vulgar or kitsch in any easily recognizable sense; however, where Tomas and Sabina are light, she is heavy. Tereza does not damn Tomas for his infidelities, and instead characterizes herself as weaker than him. Her "strongest" moment comes when she leaves Zurich and Tomas and returns to Prague alone, sacrificing her own happiness to relieve Tomas of the burden of her love. Precisely because of her intelligence and compassion, Tereza presents a kind of heaviness Tomas cannot easily dismiss. Dissident activism interests Tereza. She finds meaning, beauty, and weight in her courageous work as a photo-journalist during the Soviet takeover of Prague; unlike most of the European political left, however, Tereza admits to the existence of naiveté in her political work. Tereza changes considerably during the course of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, as she is increasingly forced to recognize the impossibility of her youthful dreams. Nothing remains as black and white as she feels it should be; Tereza even comes to admire her archrival Sabina and feels Sabina's powerful sensuality, although she knows Sabina is Tomas's beloved mistress. Just as Tomas must question his lightness, Tereza must question her heaviness. This describes Tereza as a round character.

Sabina represents extreme lightness of being. Early on, faced with the ugliness and kitsch in life, from her father's repressive patriarchal home to the totalitarian art styles pressed at her art school, Sabina declares war on the ugly and unoriginal through her paintings and lifestyle. Sabina's life is described as a series of betrayals: "Betrayal means breaking ranks and going off into the unknown. Sabina knew of nothing more magnificent" Her pursuit of freedom leads her to complete isolation and freedom in America. Sabina's love affair with...

Cited: Kavtman, Phillip, dir. “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”
Dantel Day-Levsis, Julitte Binoche, and Lena Olin. Warner Brothers.1988. DVD
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