The Hitchhiking Game

by Milan Kundera

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What does Kundera's "The Hitchhiking Game" teach us about identity, both personal and social identity.

What Kundera's "The Hitchhiking Game" teaches us about identity is that it can be fluid, but only for certain people under specific circumstances. The young man in the story is able to adopt the persona of the stranger picking up a young hitchhiker. But his girlfriend is only able to pretend to be a seductress for a very short time before the young man starts feeling resentment towards her.

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For a relatively brief period of time, the young man and his girlfriend in "The Hitchhiking Game" are able to take advantage of the relative fluidity of social and personal identity in the modern world and adopt different personas.

As part of the eponymous game, the young man plays the part of a stranger who picks up a hitchhiker by the side of the road. His girlfriend plays the part of the hitchhiker, an alluring young woman whose full-on sexuality allows her to be a craven seductress.

At first, both participants in the game enjoy themselves immensely. The young man likes to pretend that he's just come across a sexy young woman standing by the side of the road by sheer good luck. The thrill of such a discovery is clearly a major part of what makes the game so enjoyable for him.

As for his girlfriend, playing the part of a sexually confident young woman makes her feel empowered. Normally a very shy and awkward person, she revels in the role of a woman who's got it and isn't afraid to flaunt it.

But in this repressive patriarchal society, the traditional roles have to reassert themselves as some point. The young man comes to feel loathing and resentment towards his girlfriend for behaving like so many other women he's slept with over the years. He is the beneficiary of the prevailing social double-standard, which dictates that it's fine for men to adopt different identities, but not women.

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