“Some writers cause readers to consider action; others simply want the readers to reflect.” In the light of this quotation, compare the ways in which No Country for Old Men and The Unbearable Lightness of Being have influenced the attitudes of the reader to the issues they present.

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Cormac McCarthy's novel No Country For Old Men is a neo-Western and crime novel set in 1980 along the Texas-Mexico border. The title comes from a line in the William Butler Yeats poem "Sailing to Byzantium."

The novel is not meant to engender action; rather, it asks the reader to consider a number of issues. On the surface, it is a classic good-versus-evil shoot-'em-up. But its philosophical underpinnings are deep: What is the significance of human life in the face of evil? Are our lives dictated by fate, or are they shaped by our decisions (e.g., choosing heads or tails on a coin flip)?

On a larger lever, the novel is addressing the psychological aftermath of the Vietnam War and a changing cultural climate in America. All in all, it seems to be too much for the old-fashioned Sheriff Bell, one of the novel's protagonists, to handle. McCarthy's vision is often apocalyptic, and this worldview is echoed when one of Bell's friends says, "You can't stop what's coming."

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which was written by the Czech writer Milan Kundera, is deeply philosophical as well. It is set in 1968 in Prague during the Prague Spring, when the citizens of the Czechoslovakian capital rose up and challenged the authority of the Soviet state. Kundera is asking the reader to consider the significance and worth of the individual life in the grip of societal and historical forces that are beyond the individual's control. The book opens with a consideration of Nietzsche's idea of "eternal return"; that is, for an event to have any significance, it must be repeated throughout history.

In the book, Kundera seems to support Albert Camus's idea, as argued in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus, that the purpose of life is the struggle, and it's that struggle that gives life meaning. Without it, one's life is simply "unbearably light."

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