In The Joke, how does Milan Kundera portray communism (and its ideologies) through the characters and the events that take place throughout the novel? 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Kundera makes an argument in The Joke that humor is complex and intricate.  It is complex and intricate because it can help to provide a frame of reference for our world and our place in it.  Such complexity is repudiated through Communist ideologies. In this regard, Kundera is making a statement that individuals who seek a world of simplicity are threatened by the multi-faceted understanding of humor.

In Ludvik's initial attempt at humor, there is a depiction of Communism as this singular reality that fails to understand the intricacies of humor.  When Ludvik writes, “Optimism is the opium of the people! A healthy atmosphere stinks of stupidity! Long live Trotsky! Ludvik," it is a statement of how complex humor and satire can be.  "The joke" becomes a statement that compels individuals to think.  It lies beyond the neat and simplistic constructions of Communism.  The fact that Ludvik is rejected as a result of his joke, a consequence of complex thought, is how Kundera portrays Communism as a reductive force.  It seeks to remove the intricacies and complexity of consciousness in order to substantiate its own power and control.  Ludvik is a victim of the historical reality in which people seek power at the cost of intricacy of thought.  He himself becomes the victim of his own joke as he fails to see the multiplicity of outcomes of his actions.  Communism and human beings who support it are seen as elements that seek to affirm simplicity in order to substantiate their own power.   

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