Four sample reflective statements that provide development of understanding
Reflective Statement: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
How was your understanding of the cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed
through the interactive oral?
The class discussion regarding Kundera’s novel helped me to understand the intricacies
of Czechoslovakian culture which pervade the novel. The discussion delved into the historical
context surrounding the Prague Spring and the Soviet Occupation. This information helped me
to understand the protagonists’ responses to the effects of communism.
The discussion explained the psychological effects of the Communist regime. I learned
that when the Prague Spring was quelled by Russian tanks, Czech intellectuals were forced to
publicly renounce their goals in a show of public humiliation. Dubcek, who had been the
figurehead of reform in Czechoslovakia, was compelled to publicly state that Prague would have
to relinquish freedoms for the common good. This public renouncement was a from of
psychological warfare from the Soviets, designed to convince those living in Czechoslovakia that
resistance to the occupation would be futile. When Tomas is given the petition to sign, he refuses
because he understands that he “could not save political prisoners,” (219). Tomas chooses not to
protest against the government because he feels politically impotent. In light of the political and
psychological tools which the discussion unearthed, this makes sense because the Soviets used
deadly weapons of humiliation and shame to make all attempts at rebellion seem futile.
In addition to quelling attempts at reform, the Soviet regime was designed to terrorize
citizens into submission. The discussion revealed that freedom of speech and the press were
rescinded under the Soviets. The government also held the power to arrest citizens with
impunity. This important historical context helps explain why Tereza was so terrified by her
encounter with the engineer. Tereza worries that the engineer with whom she had an affair may
have been a member of the secret police. Tereza’s obsession over this possibility seems
irrational at first glance. However, having rescinded civil liberties, the Soviets held power to
arrest with virtual impunity. The Soviets propagated the idea that they had spies everywhere,
changing street names to “Stalingrad Street” and “Leningrad Street” in order to emphasize the
pervasiveness of the Soviet presence (165). Tereza’s concerns of arrest, therefore, are possible
given the breadth of Soviet surveillance.
The behaviors of Tomas and Tereza reflect important cultural mindsets present in
Czechoslovakia under the Soviet occupation. These mindsets are best understood through the
lens of historical information, which the discussion provided, enriching my understanding of the
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Reflective Statement: Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina
How was your...