Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The themes of dominance and dehumanization are inextricably entwined throughout history and, therefore, literature. Milan Kundera addresses this concept in his novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by describing the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia and its communistic influence on his characters, the interrelations of these characters, as well as its implications in a small excerpt on man's presumed dominance over other creatures. This last passage ties together the mechanization of people with that of animals, showing that the citizens of communist Czechoslovakia are expected to become no more than chattel.

The physical invasion of Czechoslovakia by Russia is manifested within the novel by the affect its communist regime has on the native inhabitants of, in this case, Prague. Czech citizens were told that, for their benefit, they must assume solidarity and remove distinctiveness from among them. Czech beliefs were dominated by Russian idealism and individuals were mechanized by a desire for uniformity. This theme is woven throughout the novel, depicted in forms inseparable from the characters and Kundera's sporadic autobiographical insights.

Throughout the novel, Kundera uses the concepts of people being mechanized by communism and animals being mechanized by people. ?Mechanical? is a term that refers to that which is automatic, involuntary, emotionless, and unthinking. The actual application of communism, as opposed to its theoretical intentions, lends itself to this unconscious acceptance and conformity. The men and women of Prague will be forced to take an apathetic approach to individuality, career, society, religion and especially politics. Like machi...

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...? (289). Ideally, man would show mercy to his fellow human being instead of constantly trying to gain power over him. Russia?s invasion of Czechoslovakia is an exertion of power, a claim of dominance over the will of another country. Its dehumanization of the inhabitants of Czechoslovakia directly correlates to man?s assumption of power over animals. Superiority is a presumed right, justified less by truth than by man?s will to justify.

The images Kundera uses to illustrate the invasion of Czechoslovakia are both stark and revealing. They are images of concentration camps, naked uniformity, dominance over dependent creatures, and mechanical humans and animals alike. Tomas?s conquests and Tereza?s dreams are manifestations of a country in a struggle for its independence. With these characters, Kundera humanizes the essentially inhumane concept of communism.
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