The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being


Milan Kundera

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being: Part 3, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Franz paces his apartment in anticipation as his wife, Marie-Claude, entertains her guests. She is throwing a party for the painters and sculptors who have exhibited art in her private gallery, and she has invited Sabina. Sabina usually avoids Marie-Claude, but Sabina and Franz decided it would be best if she attended the party. Franz walks into the next room, where his daughter, Marie-Anne, entertains more guests. She is nothing like Franz, and he thinks this to himself as Sabina walks in. 
Despite the heaviness that is implied by Franz’s identity as a husband and father, he has no real connection to his wife and daughter. In this way, Franz’s life is  quite “light” in Kundera’s terms, and so he looks for meaning and significance elsewhere, like with the Grand March. Standing and fighting for something, in Franz’s eyes, has meaning, so he chases this significance, ignoring the potential sources of meaning already present in his life.
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As Sabina enters, Marie-Claude immediately approaches her. Marie-Claude grabs the pendant from Sabina’s neck and inspects it. “How ugly!” Marie-Claude cries, but Franz knows his wife’s comment has nothing to do with the pendant. Something is ugly if Marie-Claude “willed it ugly, beautiful if she willed it beautiful.” But most of all, Franz knows that Marie-Claude has insulted Sabina’s pendant to show her, and everyone else, that she has power over Sabina.
Marie-Claude obviously knows something is going on between Franz and Sabina. She makes a beeline for Sabina and then promptly insults her, immediately establishing herself in a position of power. Marie-Claude’s comment that the pendant is ugly suggests not only the subjective nature of art and beauty, but also the instability of language. “Ugly” cannot be defined as one thing—it is whatever Marie-Claude (or, presumably, anyone else) wants it to be. 
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