The Unbearable Lightness of Being | Study Guide

Milan Kundera

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being | Part 4, Chapters 7–12 : Soul and Body | Summary

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Summary

In Chapter 7 Tereza now works at a hotel bar. She has gotten the job through friends, including a former ambassador who works at the reception desk. One night a friend of the ambassador shows her a photo that condemned his son, a political dissident during the Soviet invasion. She is relieved it is not one of her photos. Bothered again by the scent of another woman in Tomas's hair, Tereza again begins her attempts to flirt in Chapter 8. It is not her intention to "take revenge on Tomas," but rather to "find a way out of the maze." She wishes she could learn Tomas's lightness instead of being a "burden" to him.

Tereza meets the engineer in Chapter 9. At this point he is merely a "tall man" who defends her against a bothersome customer. But this encounter sets the stage for when the engineer returns a few days later in Chapter 10. Tereza smiles at him "like a friend." He calls her beautiful and they begin a flirtation.

In a dream sequence Tereza finally tells Tomas in Chapter 11 that she cannot take his womanizing any longer. He takes her to a park they know well and tells her, "I've taken care of everything." He then sends her up Petrin Hill, and though she feels anxious about it, she is "constitutionally unable to disobey Tomas." In Chapter 12 she realizes Petrin Hill is where people go to voluntarily die.

Analysis

Tereza's inability to accept Tomas's libertine ways has led her to a psychological crisis. First, she is attempting to learn to be someone she is not, a flirt. As Kundera puts it, Tereza develops flirtation into "an important field of research." She needs to discover how far she is willing to go to achieve Tomas's "lightness." She knows her need for physical fidelity is "anachronistic," so flirtation is another attempt to "become" Tomas. As in Part 2, where Tereza tries to become Tomas by befriending Sabrina, Tereza is going against her nature. This is emotionally unhealthy for her, as evidenced by her dream of Tomas sending her to Petrin Hill to die.

Kundera does not set the stage for the dream sequence that begins in Chapter 11. Instead, the narrative shifts abruptly from her flirtation with the engineer to a sequence of events that will become increasingly bizarre, revealing that they take place within a dream. Tereza's journey up Petrin Hill shows her nostalgia for a past in which she considered Tomas hers alone. She confesses that she needs his help. What she wants is for him to pledge to stop seeing other women, but instead, he sends her off to die. The implication is clear: death is the only solution to the irreconcilable dichotomy between his lightness and her weight. And, indeed, as Sabina pointed out in Part 3, Chapter 10, because Tomas and Tereza will die in "the same second," in death they will be bound together at last.

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