Study Guide

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Part 3, Chapter 2

By Milan Kundera

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Part 3, Chapter 2

  • The mistress, a.k.a. Sabina, now alone, puts the hat back on her head and returns to staring at herself in the mirror.
  • She remembers once standing next to Tomas, wearing the hat and lingerie, and staring at the mirror. They were both excited by what they saw.
  • Tomas was fully dressed. The hat symbolized violence against Sabina, because she was nearly naked and her femininity was ridiculed by its masculinity.
  • The narrator wants to talk some more about the hat. It reminds Sabina of her grandfather and her father. It is a sexual prop with Tomas and marks her individuality. It also has sentimental value for her and Tomas, as it is a testament to their shared past together.
  • Consider Sabina's life a musical composition; the hat is a motif. Each time it reappears, it does so with a new meaning.
  • When people meet when they are young, says the narrator, their musical compositions are still developing, and they can exchange motifs, as Sabina and Tomas did.
  • But if they meet when they are older, as Sabina and Franz, every motif means something different to them. That is why Franz was so confused by Sabina's actions.
  • And it was not the first time. The narrator has composed an entire lexicon of their misunderstandings.

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