The Hitchhiking Game

by Milan Kundera

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What are the benefits of "The Hitchhiking Game" for each player, and when does it stop being fun?

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"The Hitchhiking Game" explores the idea of personas in relationships through the perspectives of a young couple simply referred to as "the girl" and "the young man." While both characters begin the game amused and optimistic, they reach a limit for it at different points in the story.

The Girl

At the beginning of the story, the girl is self-conscious and represses the sexual aspect of her personality, both by society's expectations and her own. The hitchhiking game offers her the benefit of escaping and expressing the repressed aspects of her personality in a seemingly low-risk scenario. She is able to adopt the persona of the type of woman she believes the young man is attracted to and, in doing so, is given the benefit of working out many of her insecurities and overcoming her inhibitions.

The game stops being fun for the girl towards the end of the story when the young man spontaneously takes her to a hotel. He begins treating her as a sexual object, rudely ordering her around and making hurtful remarks. She pleads with him to remember she is still the woman he fell in love with and her personality hasn't really changed, even if she has been playing a different role. At this point, she realizes her lover is attracted to her persona of innocence, while she herself is a multi-dimensional person. In this sense, the hitchhiking game benefits the girl by allowing her to express herself as a whole person. It also provides a stinging revelation about the conditionality of her partner's love for her.

The Young Man

The young man reaches his tolerance for the hitchhiking game much sooner than the girl does. He is almost immediately put off by what he perceives as her overtly sexual behavior. He does find himself more physically attracted to her, however, and enjoys the game on a superficial level in the very beginning. He acknowledges, if only to himself, that although he has had many casual encounters with other women, he never respected them. He is fond of the girl because he perceives her as a somewhat one-dimensional symbol of purity and innocence. Her innocence is what he values most, and when she abandons it in favor of the persona of a seductress, she loses value in his eyes. The game ceases to be fun for him when he realizes how enthusiastically the girl has taken to this new role, dashing his perception of her as being different from the other women he has known.

Both the girl and young man benefit from the hitchhiking game in their respective ways. The climax of the story involves an emotional outburst in which the girl begs the young man to see her for who she is. In return, he is forced to acknowledge, somewhat grudgingly, that he has placed her on an impossible pedestal. The game is no longer fun for either of them, but it does give the young couple deeper insight into themselves and their relationship.

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