Ideas for Group Discussions

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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 300

The Unbearable Lightness of Being ought to engender lively discussions, as long as the outspoken eroticism present in this novel is dealt with directly. Issues of particular interest may concern its portrayal of sexual mores, the antagonism between sexual desire and marriage, the ascription of gender difference, and the complex of fidelity and betrayal. As well, issues of political significance found here have not been eclipsed by the dissolution of the Communist regimes in the Eastern Bloc, in that the questions posed by Kundera transcend geopolitical boundaries and find wider application in our time and place as well.

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1. How does the story of Karenin avoid being overly sentimental, and therefore yet another example of kitsch?

2. What are the various functions and analyses of photography in the novel? Why is this Tereza's chosen occupation, and how does that choice differ her from Sabina the painter?

3. Is Kundera's critique of kitsch applicable to contemporary American culture, and how?

4. Why precisely does Tomas refuse to recant his article on Oedipus Rex? If it is in order to make a statement in opposition to the Communist government, why then does he also refuse to sign the statement of solidarity with other censored intellectuals?

5. Do the principles of "lightness" and "weight" operate in our lives as individuals, in our cultures? Trace some instances where they occur.

6. How would contemporary American feminism regard Tomas's "womanizing," and Kundera's distinction between the epic and lyric womanizer? Does Kundera's rendering of the character of Tomas contain an implicit attack on feminism?

7. What function is served by Kundera's inclusion of a dictionary of key terms here? Does it supplement or merely interrupt the flow of the narrative?

8. Why does Tomas return to Prague, and to Tereza? Is it a moral choice, or merely an action born of sentimentality?

Harold Branam

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