Archetypal PairingsMar 19, 2021
They say that three’s a crowd, but in fiction, three is also a power dynamic; a triangle of potential lust, friction, and evolution. Nowhere is the example of three characters in relationship to each other most powerful than perhaps in the story, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
“Unbearable Lightness” takes place during the Czech Revolution of 1968 and is the story of a man and the two women he loves.
Tomas is a doctor in Prague who loves women. A man with a huge libido, he enjoys sex with women who are particularly confident and free – like his lover, Sabina. Sabina is a modern artist who doesn’t take life too seriously and resents those who are attracted to the extreme. She is playful, whimsical and not terribly self-reflective.
The archetypal pairing between Tomas and Sabina is one of equals, in many ways. They enjoy each other’s company, they equally give in to the pleasure of their union, they don’t feel the need to cling to each other or apply labels to their relationship. They are both rebels, both creators and both Anti-Heroes to an extent.
But when Tomas meets Tereza, a childlike photographer who shows up at his home after a brief tryst with the doctor, he doesn’t just forge a relationship with this new woman. Tereza’s presence creates a triangle between him, her and Sabina. Tomas marries Tereza and loves her dearly, but he is unwilling to give up his sexual proclivities. Tereza becomes the innocent, and Tomas becomes her guardian – a strange role for a man to play with the woman he loves. He wants to her to become less dependent on him and to feel confident in her relationship with him and in so doing, he introduces her to Sabina. Tereza knows that Sabina is someone that Tomas has been intimate with and it is Sabina’s candor and easygoing nature that allows Tereza to feel certain that the other woman, despite her beauty and talent and power, isn’t a threat. Tomas surely wouldn’t have introduced her to his ‘other woman’ if he didn’t trust the two to find peace together, right?
Tomas’ love for Tereza is real enough to cause him to change – to let Sabina and eventually the other women go – in order to satisfy Tereza’s desperate need for faithfulness and security in their life together. Their roles shift, as she lets go of her fears over his infidelities. And as Tomas releases his ego-driven need to conquer as many women as possible, he becomes a more ethical man – which unfortunately jeopardizes his career amid the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia. Tomas must accept a diminished role in his life and his medical practice, and when he and Tereza leave Prague for the country, the two find that all they need is each other. Meanwhile, Sabina has moved on and established a new life for herself in America. Her union with Tomas and her friendship with Tereza have informed her viewpoints and her art, as much as her sensuality.
Tomas and Sabina have a relationship, which becomes a triangle with the introduction of Tereza. When that triangle separates, it doesn’t weaken any of the three people in it – even though each continues to be challenged by the connections to each other. Each evolves, with each other or without each other, as a result of their relationships.
Your story isn’t just going to be populated by interesting characters, or even just a collection of pairings. There will be solitary characters, pairs, triangles, families and communities. How do each affect each other, based upon their primary and secondary archetypes?
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