27 February 2014
The Dilemma structure is an ongoing contradiction between being and non-being, lightness and weight, soul and body, and paradise and Earth. Kundera sheds light on this dilemma through the eyes of the four characters in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”.
Readers follow the lives of Tomas, Teresa, Franz and Sabina and are forced to sympathize with them as they struggle tirelessly to make sense of the tragic dilemma of human existence. The ancient myth of Eternal Return means that every single moment of ones life is returned to eternally. This fixation of life is a burden that is weighty, yet fulfilling. It represents a positive ideology of a “being” in complete totality. Tereza’s character signifies this weight/heaviness. Her attachment to meaning and destiny, and the notion that everything happens for a reason and not by accident but by a prophecy of life, drowns her to near death. This apparent “connection” between the soul and body is an impossibility that Tereza is destined to. The idea that something physical such as the human body and the soul, which is something nonphysical or tangible, was simply created to give meaning to human existence yet this connection is something that Tereza cannot escape. In her path to please Tomas she briefly achieves this lightness and separation that Tomas instills in her when she has sex with a stranger. Tereza’s infidelity is to affirm Tomas’s belief in the separation of sex and love and the grasp of lightness. Through sex without love or feeling she felt her body newly discovered. Though in her denial and fear of her affair she makes herself believe that Tomas made her do it. The lightness dissipated rather quickly when Teresa becomes swarmed with paranoid thoughts that her affair was a conspiracy and Tomas will soon find out the truth. In this, it is evident that Tereza’s affiliation to the heaviness of life is an inescapable one. Tereza began feeling resentments toward the bodily dimension when her mother instilled in her that the body is simply this disgusting element that farts and shits. Her mother also would insist upon the lack of uniqueness of the body and the insignificance of the body as a “special” thing. The first time, and many times after, Tereza and Tomas had sex, Tereza would scream at the top of her lungs, not in pleasure but pain to dissolve these feelings associated with love and sex. Her screams were to completely numb the senses and free her body from the physical action. She wanted to have sex without her body but with her soul. Her eagerness to separate feelings of love and compassion from the body stem from the lack of privacy and constant humiliation she had with her mother. The negative “non-being” idea is one Tomas has no problem achieving. In fact it is what he believes gives him pleasure and lightness. There is a dilemma between the myth of Eternal Return, and the belief of lightness and meaninglessness. It symbolizes a non-fixation, accidental, untrue, unchangeable view of life. Tomas experiences empathy towards Tereza’s suffering and her inability to accept the lightness of sex without love and his infidelities with mistresses, yet he cannot feel guilt because he believes this path of life is what makes him happy. Further, he feels that to abandon his infidelities would be doing a great disservice to him self before it is the lightness that had saved him from a crumbling marriage and an estrangement from his son. Sex without feeling, compassion and love are what drives Tomas and Sabina’s relationship for so long. The difference between Tomas and Sabina is that Tomas is committed to Tereza. Sabina gets ill at the idea of commitment. She lives a completely free and light way of life, not emotionally attaching herself to anyone else. Thus,