The Hitchhiking Game

by Milan Kundera
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In Kundera's "The Hitchhiking Game," what points are being made about relationships and identity?

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The main point Kundera is trying to make in "The Hitchhiking Game " is that the assumptions and ideals we have often get in the way of our ability to see people as the complex individuals they are. Another major point the author makes is that identity is multidimensional...

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The main point Kundera is trying to make in "The Hitchhiking Game" is that the assumptions and ideals we have often get in the way of our ability to see people as the complex individuals they are. Another major point the author makes is that identity is multidimensional and, in order to truly love someone, it is necessary to accept the subtle elements of their personality as well as their more superficial characteristics. The role of gender in identity and relationships is also heavily explored.

The Complexity of Identity

Kundera uses the generic terms of "the girl" and "the young man" to illustrate the concept of one-dimensional identities based on gender. The girl and the young man are both presented as archetypes in the beginning. The girl is innocent, naive, and sexually inexperienced, while her lover is shrewd and worldly. As the story progresses, subtle aspects of their identities merge. Although the girl begins her self-exploration by taking on a relatively stereotypical identity, this game soon conjures genuine aspects of her personality that she has repressed for much of her life. As she feels empowered by this newly discovered identity, the young man feels threatened. Aspects of his identity emerge as well, including the aggressiveness and abrasiveness that characterized his interactions with his former lovers.

Love and Identity

Another major point Kundera tries to make throughout "The Hitchhiking Game" is that love, if it is genuine, must evolve to accommodate the changes in personality that occur throughout a relationship. The young couple in the story experiences these changes at an accelerated rate through the hitchhiking game, but their experience serves as an example of the transition all relationships undergo. As the intimacy between two people grows, new components of their identities emerge. With each subsequent revelation of personality, there is always the risk that the relationship will strain and fracture. The young man is forced to assess whether he can accept the girl as a whole person rather than the archetype of the ingénue he fell in love with.

Gender, Identity, and Relationships

Throughout "The Hitchhiking Game," Kundera explores gender as a construct that affects both relationships and personal identity. The complex interplay between these dynamics creates conflict for the main characters, culminating in the young man's realization that his lover is more complex than the gendered stereotype he has unwittingly seen her as throughout their relationship. The girl feels repressed and forced to ignore the sexual aspect of her identity due to society's expectations about gender.

As the story continues, the false dichotomy of the naive and virtuous girl and the seductress is presented and deconstructed. The girl comes to the realization that she can be both virtuous and seductive, both innocent and empowered. In a less obvious way, the young man is also forced to examine the gender expectations placed on men. He is confronted by the stark difference between his treatment of women he perceives as innocent and those he sees as lascivious, even though he himself has engaged in sexually promiscuous behavior in the past.

Each of the points the author makes in "The Hitchhiking Game" explores the multi-directional relationship between relationships and identity in a compelling way. Through two seemingly archetypal characters, Kundera discusses the complexity of human identity, sexuality, and the interplay between them.

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