In the book The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera uses the themes of Sexuality, Lightness, and Weight to describe and interpret two different lifestyles with their advantages and disadvantages. These two juxtaposing lifestyles, known as Lightness or Weight, vary dramatically with readers often conflicted over which is the better philosophy. Depending on the reader, he or she could personally identify with one of these lifestyles thus positively advocating it while dismissing the other and vice versa.
For example, while one individual could relate to Sabina’s sexual ventures and find her manners acceptable, a more conservative individual could look down upon such acts and find them vile. To understand its effects and how the text could be interpreted by two different readers, the passages below will analyze characters and explain their beliefs with assumptions to how might readers react to them.Two main philosophies of lifestyle are present in the novel, Lightness and Weight. Tomas and Sabina are both characters that follow the ideology of lightness although with varying degrees. One distinct opinion about Tomas is that he considers sex and love two separate and unrelated entities, thus often cheating on Tereza for his mistresses although he loves her. This rather open-minded belief and supporter for sexual freedom could identify with those readers who share similar feelings.
While society as a whole looks down upon individuals or couples that have open relationships, some advocate for it. These individuals could find solace in Tomas who shares the sames beliefs. Another character who is light and shares Tomas’ belief of sexual freedom is Sabina. Sabina is considered the lightest character in the novel. Due to her repressive patriarchal home and oppressive art styles at her art school, she fights against what she considers the ugly and unoriginal through her paintings and her lifestyle.
She believes that in order to be truly free she has to have nothing to hold her back thus detaching herself from long term relationships through betrayal. Kundera states, “”Betrayal mean breaking ranks and going off into the unknown. Sabina knew of nothing more magnificent…” This idea of fighting against the norms, a motif often repeated in describing the light philosophy, is often well received by liberal individuals like teenagers who are susceptible to overcontrol by their parents. However, many parents themselves might see these rebellious attitudes as being childish and dismissing them as petty and obscene acts. Thus, two opinions are formed, one that supports the light philosophy and another that despises it.
On the opposite spectrum of lightness is weight. The two characters representing this belief are Tereza and Franz. The polar opposite of Sabina and considered the archrival for the attention of Tomas is Tereza. Tereza is considered the heaviest character in the novel.
While alike to Sabina in that her childhood was traumatic, she decides to live a heavy lifestyle instead of light in order to push herself away from her mother’s influence. She desires an individual to share her weight thus finding Tomas and marrying him. Due to the vulnerable position living in a heavy lifestyle, sharing responsibilities and relying on others, she stays with Tomas even though he constantly betrays her with his mistresses due to his light nature. This vulnerability leads her to a conservative mindset and fearfulness to venture into the unknown, the complete opposite of Sabina and her light individualistic lifestyle. Tereza can be considered a beacon for the conservative and traditional readers who value romanticism and societal norms. Another character alike to Tereza is Franz.After looking at both interpretation of philosophies and the four characters, readers of the book may come to different conclusions based on pre existing opinions. In our modern day and age many teenagers or young adults complain about the restrictive nature of society.
How most individuals are pressured to conform to societal norms in what is otherwise known as the bandwagon effect. Many of these individuals might be attracted to the light philosophy and lifestyle that both Tomas and Sabina follow. Their ability to not conform and to live life freely allows many young individuals to connect with the characters.
Other reader might be married and finds Tomas’ sexual acts disturbing. These readers may be living with the philosophy of weight thus finding themselves attracted to Tereza and sympathizing with her. Another example might be a hard working scientist. This individual find solace in working towards a goal he or she finds important thus giving him/her self purpose and direction. This individual might be drawn towards Franz with his lifestyle of creating meaning through attaching weight and importance to concepts and events.
Each reader has had event and environments that have shaped their opinion thus leading them to believe in one philosophy or another. Based on their pre existing philosophies, readers will often feel differently about the ideas presented in the book and may interpret the meanings of these philosophies with different perspectives therefore coming to different conclusions. Opinions of this book will greatly differ based on premature mindsets. A more liberal individual might look up towards a more light lifestyle while a more conservative individual might look up towards a lifestyle with weight.
In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Kundera explains these lifestyles by using the themes of sexuality, lightness, and weight to explain how these lifestyles function and leave the reader to decide on their opinions. Thus, two different readers can interpret such lifestyles in completely different manners and therefore creating completely different experiences and interpretations while reading the book.