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The symbolism of death in Milan Kundera's, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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Introduction

Christopher James Clatworthy Cedar International School Diploma Language A Literature Course (HL) Part 1: Written Assignment The symbolism of death in Milan Kundera's, The Unbearable Lightness of Being Milan Kundera, a prominent Czechoslovakian author who lived through both the Communist regime and the Prague spring of 1968, uses his text, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, to highlight the impact of regime change in Czechoslovakia. The Prague Spring was an uprising of the youth in Czechoslovakia due to an abrupt change in political system from Socialism to Communism. ?Socialism with a human face? (Encyclopedia Britannica) is a system that promotes individual freedom, whereas Communism restricts its citizens. Kundera shows the polarity of Communism and Socialism through the connotations created in his presentation of death within the text. The novel is based on four characters, Tomas, Franz, Tereza and Sabina, living in the late 1960?s. The contrasting views of death held by Tereza and Sabina represent Communism and Dubcek's idea of Socialism respectively: death under physical weight symbolizing Communism and a desire to die under physical lightness symbolizing Socialism. This is significant as it presents the reader with both sides allowing them to decide which is the better governmental system to live under. ...read more.

Middle

This meant greater freedoms and less oppressive policies with regard to personal freedoms. When the philosophical idea of lightness is juxtaposed to ?Socialism with a human face? the reader is able to visualize multiple similarities. For instance, the freedom and the ?absence of a burden? (Kundera, 5) in the Dubcek?s system, ?causes man to be lighter than air? (Kundera, 5) which in essence resembles freedom. However, in a communist society, an individual's best interests are indistinguishable from the interests of the collective. Hence, the ideology of an individual freedom is at direct odds with a communist ideology. The only reason to hold individual speech and information rights would be to better the society. Essentially establishing Communism as lack of freedom. Again, the reader is able to find the similarities between Communism and the philosophical idea of weight. ?burdens crush us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground.?(Kundera,5) The term burden is symbolic of the government in Communism that restricts its citizens to freedom, ?pin[ing]? (Kundera,5) them down. Furthermore, the connotation of the diction ?crush? is one of weight. This allows the reader to form a connection between system of Communism and the philosophical idea of weight. ...read more.

Conclusion

Furthermore, Sabina wanting her ?ashes to be thrown to the wind? (Kundera,273) reveals to the reader that she wants to die in such a way that resembles lightness, by her ashes flowing freely in the wind without constraint. Through this presentation of Sabina?s death, Kundera informs his readers that Sabina has a political affiliation towards Dubcek?s Socialism as it is a system that promotes individual freedom. Through the use of Parmenides' philosophical ideas which are presented through the view?s of death in respect to Sabina and Tereza, Kundera has been able to show two opposing governmental systems that were present in 1968. By doing so, Kundera has been able to flesh out many important underlying messages about each system. Such as the connotation of each governmental system, for instance, Communism having a sense of entrapment, while Dubcek?s Socialism with freedom. Kundera has not labeled each system as being good or bad, but has linked it up to the philosophical idea founded by Parmenides?, and that is the dichotomy of life in the form as lightness and weight. Through this Kundera has allowed his readers to form their own opinion as to which system they feel more comfortable with, ?Socialism with a human face? or Communism. ...read more.

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