Sunday, August 31, 2008

Weighty Issues

This week in one of my Comp II classes we discussed Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried." I've read the story I don't know how many dozens of times over the years, but a discussion like that one will always make me think more deeply about it. This time I was captivated by O'Brien's notion of the conditions of our lives adding weight, and a corresponding desire in people (especially the soldiers in the story) to shed that weight--to relieve ourselves of the burdens we take on, whether they're chosen or forced on us.

I'm not sure why this time through it occurred to me, but I wondered if O'Brien was responding to Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I've also read this novel a number of times, and I've always gotten carried away with Kundera's treatment of weight--which is almost completely opposite O'Brien's. Instead of the conditions of our lives adding weight to our lives, Kundera posits that since we only live once, everything we do is ephemeral, weightless. Especially the choices we make. It's the fact that our lives are so weightless that causes our real anxiety.

I'm sure someone's already juxtaposed these two, but I'm smitten with this idea now. I'll have to read Kundera next.


Anonymous said...

I will give you credit as the first to compare these two works, but I reserve the right to think of Lena Olin in a bowler whenever you mention the book.

Jason said...

I've still never seen the film. I know Kundera hated it, but I'd like to see it despite that.

Do you think it's worth a look, based on your viewing?