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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Milan Kundera

Part 7: Karenin's Smile

Part 6: The Grand March

Part 7: Karenin's Smile, page 2

page 1 of 2

In the final chapter, we see Tomas and Tereza in the countryside, on the night before their death. They are living an altered lifestyle, quiet and peaceful. The government does not have as much control over the country as it does over the city, so their political worries seem less urgent. Tereza is happy because they are finally alone, and Tomas is finally all hers.

Tereza's dog Karenin develops a wound on his leg which turns out to be cancer. Tereza is heartbroken, and thinks how much she prefers animals to people. She considers various moments of mass cruelty to animals, some of which cruelties were institutionalized under the Soviet regime. "True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only ...towards those who are at its mercy: animals."

Arguing with Tomas over Karenin and finding a letter to Tomas in a woman's handwriting, Tereza reflects that she seems to love her dog better than her husband. With the dog, she expects nothing and feels no shame; Kundera speculates that an animal is closer to Adam than fallen man is, and that a dog was never expelled from Eden. Tereza and Tomas put Karenin to sleep after spending some final moments with him; Tereza thinks the dog is smiling. They bury Karenin.

Tereza has a dream in which Tomas is called to report to the local airfield, and then shot by three men who look like officials. His body shrinks into a small rabbit, which one of the men catches and gives to Tereza. She finds herself in Prague, and finds the house in which her parents once lived. All the while, she holds on to the rabbit and knows she can keep it forever.

Tomas tells Tereza he has been receiving letters from his son. Tereza watches him work and realizes how old he has grown, and suddenly feels guilty for everything she has put him through. She realizes she has forced him further and further away from his original life as a successful surgeon in Prague, just to make him prove he loves her. Tomas is now weak and old, like the rabbit from her dream.

A man hurts his arm while working, and Tomas relocates it for him. That night, in celebration, they all go out dancing. After they return home, Tereza confesses her guilty feelings to Tomas, who tells her that he is happy. Their room resembles the bedroom Tereza dreamed of as a child.

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