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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Milan Kundera

Part 7: Karenin's Smile

Summary Part 7: Karenin's Smile

Analysis

Kundera contrasts Tereza's emotions for Karenin with her feelings for Tomas. She consistently wonders at the selflessness of her love for an animal, and at the security and comfort she feels when with her dog. She feels infinitely more insecure and desperate in her love for Tomas. The contrasts illustrates the selfishness and neediness of human love; Tomas and Tereza, like many of the other characters in the novel, have been trying to reshape and recreate each other since the day they began living together.

In a sense, Tereza's reshaping of Tomas can be considered successful; now that he has grown old and is separated from the urban environment that made his womanizing possible, Tomas has been tamed, much like the rabbit in Tereza's dream. While Tomas has incorporated some of Tereza's heaviness, as evidenced by his return to Prague to join her, and his decision to give up womanizing, he has affected and changed her as well. The life Tomas and Tereza lead in the country is a life of lightness, almost irresponsibility; having given up their careers, the two play at farming and ignore the totalitarian regime that rules their country.

In the preceding chapter, Kundera divided people who need a public into four types: those who need a public of unknown eyes, those who need familiar eyes, those who want to be in the eyes of the person they love, and the dreamers who live to be seen by an imagined being. Kundera places both Tomas and Tereza in the third category, those who need to be seen by the beloved; in other words, through the course of their time together these two seeming opposites have come together.

Kundera ends The Unbearable Lightness of Being with a touching optimism. He introduces the concepts of perfect love and human goodness—happy concepts, although Kundera claims they exist only rarely, and then only in the love of human and animal. Also, we finally see Tereza and Tomas together in a perfectly serene moment. While the reader knows that the couple will die in the morning, the book ends with a moment in which they are happy together. By compromising they have tamed their imperfect love, and both Tomas and Tereza have found happiness.

Three of the four main characters in the novel have died, each according to the way he or she chose to live. Franz died a dreamer's death; Tereza and Tomas die together. The only character left living is Sabina. She has planned for her death to match her light lifestyle, and in the meantime corresponds with Tomas's son Simon. The reader is left to speculate about her last adventure.