Themes

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Last Updated on June 1, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 276

Reproductive Rights and Restrictions

The women who come to the spa in The Farewell Party seek help with fertility issues. The plot includes the conflict between Klima, a former guest, and Ruzena, a nurse who becomes pregnant after they have a one-night stand. He pressures her to have an abortion,...

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Reproductive Rights and Restrictions

The women who come to the spa in The Farewell Party seek help with fertility issues. The plot includes the conflict between Klima, a former guest, and Ruzena, a nurse who becomes pregnant after they have a one-night stand. He pressures her to have an abortion, which she initially resists.

More generally, the spa’s director, Dr. Skreta, is engaged in unethical research and practices, as he uses his own sperm to impregnate countless women. In stark contrast to the practices of the doctor, Jakub, a former political prisoner, believes that humankind is unworthy of self-perpetuation.

Freedom and Individualism

The characters frequently discuss the limits of human freedom. Klima’s profession and status as an artist are contrasted to the conformist pressures around him. The value of life and individuals’ freedom to take their own life is symbolized by the suicide pill that Skreta provided to Jakub and Jakub’s consequent vacillation over using it.

Opposing the restrictive system is the wealthy American, Bartleff, who promotes individual liberation through both Christianity and self-interest. Olga, Jakub’s ward, epitomizes the commitment to individual responsibility for ethical choices.

Political Repression

The burden of an oppressive political system is felt throughout the novel. Rather than engaging in organized opposition, each character is shown trying to cope in their own particular way. The execution of Olga’s father in years past and Jakub’s former imprisonment are specters of the Stalinist-era repression. Skreta’s megalomaniacal attempts to populate the country with his own offspring stand for the inescapable power of external forces. Ruzena’s father and his friends, the zealous dog-catchers, parallel the police who support the authoritarian state.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 244

In The Farewell Party, Kundera shrewdly adapts the conventions of farce to the purposes of political criticism. The novel offers the typical entertainment of farce—sexual intrigue, suspense, silly characters, and amusing scenes, all combined in a tightly constructed plot that resembles the five acts of a French well-made play. Yet at the same time the novel, like other works by Kundera, has a reflective quality—in the author’s style, in the analysis of character, and in the set discussions—that suggests more than mere entertainment. The suggestion points to another sense in which the novel is reflective thematically: The personal behavior of the characters is a reflection of the regime that made them. As in all Kundera’s fiction, there is a continuum between the personal and the political.

Aside from character, Kundera makes his point through symbolism, some of which has already been noted. The contrast between pale-blue pills and pale-blue halos plays on a dichotomy between Communism and Christianity, ingestion and emanation, outer dependence and inner strength, Communist character and Christian character, Skreta and Bartleff. Bartleff calls Skreta “one of Jesus’s holy disciples, for he knows how to perform miracles,” but Skreta’s miracles seem decidedly Communist—his uniform spawn of nearsighted, big-nosed children—whereas Bartleff is the genuine article. Just as Ruzena embodies Jakub’s persecutors, so Kamila embodies the beauty in life that he has so far missed, though he might find it where he is going.

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Characters