Kundera's "The Hitchhiking Game," from the short story collection "Laughable Loves," examines the interplay of human emotional and perception in relationships. It focuses on a young man and young woman who are vacationing together. We learn in the opening paragraphs that he has frequently allowed the car to run out of gas, and she has traded upon her youthful prettiness to get rides to and from gas stations.
The Set Up
The girl is tired of hitchhiking to gas stations to get gas, and the couple's convertible is nearly out of gas. When they pull into the gas station, a truck is blocking the way and they have to wait. The girl gets out and goes inside. When they leave, she gets the idea to pretend to be a hitchhiker when he stops to pick her up.
The Role Play Begins
The young couple act as if they are strangers to each other. Although she is naturally shy, she uses the role of hitchhiker to flirt with the boy. He pretends to be a crass lecher who has picked her up to have his way with her. As part of the scenario, he chooses to take her to a marginal backwater hotel.
As they role play, the young man begins to be jealous of all the men with whom she has ridden while getting gas for them. She, on the other hand, envisions him having been with other women. When they go to their room, he addresses her as he imagines one would address a prostitute -- even though he has never been with a prostitute.
The role-play has colored their perception of one another. The young man has seen the girl in a light completely foreign to her modest nature; she has seen him behave in a brutish, cruel way. By the time she declares the role-play over, she is sobbing and he is having problems getting the vision of her as a bold, flirtatious, bad woman out of his mind.
- Laughable Loves; Milan Kundera; 1999
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