In many ways, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a more traditional novel than The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. It, too, mixes genres and is tied together by variations on a series of themes: lightness and heaviness, body and soul, vertigo and eternal return, the Grand March. It also tells several clearly related stories about four fully developed characters: the waitress/photographer Tereza, the doctor Tomas, the painter Sabina, and the professor Franz. This novel does not follow the conventions of the realistic novel: The fact of the main characters’ deaths is revealed long before it occurs, thereby undermining the plot’s suspense; a major character is introduced toward the end of the novel and then disappears; and a section is told from the point of view of Tereza and Tomas’s dog. It does, however, create and resolve a central conflict among these characters, and it does occur within a recognizable social and historical context.
The main characters are carefully paired, both romantically and thematically. Tereza and Tomas, Tomas and Sabina, and Sabina and Franz are each involved in love affairs. Tereza and Franz are both associated with the theme of weight and heaviness; Tomas and Sabina, with the theme of lightness. Weight and heaviness are associated with the soul, commitment, seriousness, responsibility; lightness, with the body, betrayal, infidelity, and selfishness. Through Tereza’s influence, in the course of the...
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