The Unbearable Lightness of Being | Study Guide

Milan Kundera

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being | Part 1, Chapters 7–12 : Lightness and Weight | Summary



In Chapter 7 Tereza begins having nightmares, and Tomas realizes she has been snooping through his things. He tries to reassure her that his "polygamous way of life" did not "run counter to his love for her," but she remains upset. Tereza has no other lovers, but when Tomas imagines her with someone else, he is jealous.

Tereza's nightmares intensify in Chapter 8. She becomes jealous of all women because all women are potential lovers for Tomas. In Chapter 9 Tomas realizes he loves Tereza "all the more" because he can have compassion for her pain.

By Chapter 10 the couple has been together for over two years, and Tomas feels "caught in a trap." He finds his other lovers distasteful, and yet he cannot give them up. His lover Sabina seems upset with him for acting distracted while he is with her. She punishes him for glancing at his watch while they make love by hiding one of his socks.

In Chapter 11 Tomas marries Tereza and gives her a dog they name Karenin. In Chapter 12 they decide to move to Zurich, both to escape the Soviet occupation and because Tereza is unhappy. The Russians have forced the Czech representatives to "sign a compromise agreement in Moscow." Their leader, Slovak and communist politician Alexander Dubcek, is a broken man after a six-day detention. Tereza enjoyed the feeling of danger at the beginning of the occupation, but now the "carnival [is] over" and she wants to escape.


Tomas' identity is wrapped up in his affairs. Who is he if he is not light and free to have sex with whomever he chooses? As he admits in Chapter 10, he cannot go a day without wanting other women, even though he has come to find them so distasteful that he cannot visit them without alcohol. This is an existential problem for Tomas because he really does care for Tereza and he is aware he is hurting her with his infidelity.

Based on her dreams full of cats "digging their claws in her skin," piles of corpses, and naked, humiliated women, Tereza is clearly traumatized by Tomas's inability to be faithful. So why does she put up with it? The reader does not see Tereza's point of view until Part 2, which will reveal that Tereza essentially has nowhere else to go. For the time being, her complete identity is wrapped up in Tomas—she is as incapable of leaving him as he is of being faithful to her.

Sabina can see the couple's identity problem clearly, perhaps because as an outsider to their relationship, she is distanced from it. When Tomas visits her for sex in Chapter 10, Sabina points out that Tomas is "turning into the theme of" all her work, which is that of "double exposure." Tomas retains the outline of a libertine, but beneath that he also possesses the "face of a romantic lover." Kundera seems to suggest that the "double exposure" theme of Sabina's work is able to encompass both lightness and weight and that the two can exist simultaneously, if not harmoniously. In any case, Tomas has not yet fully realized how much his compassion for Tereza is changing the trajectory of his life.

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