The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being


Milan Kundera

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being: Part 5, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

When Tereza first came to Prague, Tomas had thought her like a child who had been floated downstream in a basket. He has a strange fascination with abandoned infants, which was why he is so drawn to Oedipus. In the story of Oedipus, Oedipus is abandoned and taken in by King Polybus. As a young man, Oedipus meets a dignitary walking on a path and kills him, then he marries Queen Jocasta and becomes king of Thebes. He later finds out that the dignitary was his father and Queen Jocasta is his mother. Oedipus’s people are visited by a great plague that Oedipus is sure he has caused. Ashamed, he stabs out his own eyes.
Here, Kundera jumps back in time again, focusing on Tomas’s perspective on years that have already been described in other sections. Again, the narrative structure seems to imply eternal return, even as the narrator denies that it exists. Tomas repeatedly refers to Tereza as a helpless infant in a basket, which again places him in a position of power over her. It is ironic that Tomas has a fascination with abandoned infants, since he abandoned his own infant son. Tomas’s fascination suggests that Tomas has deep guilt for abandoning his own son in the name of becoming light and unattached. While Tomas is lighter because he has fewer attachments, his feelings of guilt over such actions are undeniably heavy, which again suggests that one cannot be entirely heavy or light; the two opposites always go hand in hand.   
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