Comparison of the Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Stranger

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In the novels, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera and The Stranger, by Albert Camus, both authors provide morals to present the meaninglessness of human life. Though both authors present the same idea, they do so in different ways. Kundera concludes the novel by stating his viewpoint in opposition to the philosophy of eternal return while supporting the idea of lightness and weight, while Camus adheres to the philosophy of absurdism from the beginning of the novel to establish the meaninglessness of human lives. Both authors utilize the character’s actions and choices to present this moral idea to inform the reader of the insignificance of human life.

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In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera presents the moral that if a life is lived only once, it is meaningless and light. One can only possibly live for pleasure and beauty which can be seen in the relationship of Tomas and Sabina because it is a relationship without commitment, resulting in a meaningless relationship. This relationship does not include the heavy burden of affection and commitment, unlike the relationship between Tomas and Tereza. A phrase that Kundera uses often throughout the novel is, “Einmal ist keinmal”, translating to “what happens but once, might as well not have happened at all”, signifying that for life to have meaning and weight, one must be able to live life more than once. He argues that if life were to recur infinitely there would be significant to people’s lives and their choices, known as heaviness or weight in the novel. Kundera first presents the idea of eternal return and states that it is a “mysterious” philosophy. Throughout the novel, he uses the character’s actions and choices to prove that eternal return does not exist, hence removing the weight from human lives, and life does not contain any meaning because of its lightness. During the resolution of the novel, Kundera concluded that life is light and unbearable because of it during Tomas’ and Tereza’s final moments alone in the country causing their decisions to be weightless. Nothing is considered a burden in these moments where Tomas and Tereza are dancing and enjoying each other’s company Kundera adhered to this moral to prove that eternal return does not exist, neither does the weight in life, making everything in life light and unbearable.

In The Stranger, Albert Camus maintains the absurdist perspective within Meursault and presents the moral that human life has no redeeming purpose nor meaning unless a meaning is given to it, and the only thing that is a guarantee is the inevitability of death. When the magistrate waves the crucifix over Meursault’s head, all he focuses on is the temperature of the room and the flies landing on his face. He completely disregards everything said by the court about his death sentence, showing the meaninglessness of Meursault’s life. The murder he commits, which he is in court, is also a meaningless act because Meursault did not have any reasoning to kill the Arab or shoot the gun four times. When the chaplain attempts to convince Meursault to turn to god because god will forgive him for his actions, Meursault refuses because he does not believe in god. The chaplain’s words were meaningless to him due to his lack of belief. Also, when Marie asks Meursault if he would marry her, he is indifferent toward the question. He says, “it didn’t mean anything”, and only agreed to marry her because that is what she wanted. This indifference demonstrates Meursault’s lack of care for what he does because marrying someone is meaningless if death is inevitable. Camus’ adhered to his philosophy of absurdism by creating characters, such as Marie, who continually attempt to impose meaning in Meursault’s life. Meursault’s sense of meaninglessness shows that searching for meaning or structure is a pointless venture. 

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