The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

by

Milan Kundera

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being: Part 5, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tomas is deeply depressed after the visit from the dignitary. What if he was seen talking to him? He doesn’t want anyone thinking he is associated with the secret police. Two weeks later, the dignitary comes back. He has a letter with him that he wants Tomas to sign and submit to the press. Not only does the letter retract the Oedipus article, but it also expresses Tomas’s love for the regime and the Soviet Union, and it is particularly harsh concerning the tall editor with dark hair. Tomas refuses to sign what he did not write, and the dignitary tells him he can write his own, as long as it is approved by the regime.
This, too, reflects the power of the Communist regime. They draft Tomas’s retraction letter, in which he basically pledges his allegiance to the regime, and he has zero power to express his opinion or stand up for himself. He is clearly against the regime, as he worries that he will be seen with the dignitary and others will think he associated with the regime, yet if he wants to keep his job, he must sign and submit to its power. 
Themes
Power, Politics, and Inequality Theme Icon
Telling the dignitary he will write his own letter buys Tomas some time. He quits his job at the clinic the next day and assumes that if he is no longer a doctor (since doctors are state employees), no one will care about what he wrote. After he quits his job, Tomas isn’t sure he has made the right choice, but he is “bound to it” by “an unspoken vow of fidelity,” so he becomes a window washer.
Kundera’s language here is ironic. Tomas is “bound” to his decision by “an unspoken vow of fidelity,” but he obviously does not feel bound to Tereza in any such way. This turns of events also implies that there is still some autonomy to be found in the country, where Tomas can get some distance from the regime and make his own choices, even if doing so means giving up his career as a doctor.
Themes
Sex, Love, and Duality of Body and Soul Theme Icon
Power, Politics, and Inequality Theme Icon