“The Hitchhiking Game”: Nietzsche, Kundera, and Power

Photo by Logan Fisher on Unsplash

I think Nietzsche would agree with Sartre’s belief that many relationships are created by people’s attraction not to another person, but rather how that person makes them feel about themselves by how they look at them. But this look may result in the participants to cause pain to each other in attempt to gain control over the Other’s look. This battle of perspective is an example of our will’s desire for power. All humans desire for complete control, to forge a bridge between the being and nothingness that coincides within us. Kundera’s The Hitchhiking Game is a great example of this inevitable struggle and the state of Being for Others.

It quickly becomes obvious that the couple in The Hitchhiking Game have an agonistic relationship. They seem to frustratingly withhold certain emotions and thoughts about the other. The girl is overwhelmingly jealous, but only seems to be moderately so to the young man because of her timid manner. The young man is very confident and bullish, and this confuses the girl because of her low self-esteem and naivety. She believes he is always lying or isn’t truly committed to her; especially because of his past relationships. This awkward and paradoxical pairing results in a very ambiguous and pestilent pseudo-relationship. Unfortunately, the couple isn’t aware of this, so consequences ensue. For example, the girl fears that the young man will leave her for a more confident and sexy woman. This results in her love for him to become possessive, even though she enjoys his presence most when in solitude, as she also desires to be a more confident and sexy woman. It is interesting that her fears and hopes are quite similar. The young man thinks very highly of himself in this relationship and enjoys lying to women. He somehow takes pride in the fact that he chose to be with a girl with “purity”, yet he doesn’t seem to really appreciate it as a quality she might possess, but rather pride in that he wants it, or so he thinks. Romantic love and jealousy can overlap, and they do in this couple’s case because they each possess the other’s hopes. They desire the ideals, we all do! But every ideal is a judge! And they mercilessly reveal your shortcomings!

When the couple begins the game, they unknowingly commit themselves to a power battle without rules. Once they have put up the facade of the game, they use it as a safety net, a chance to dive into their “characters”. The moment they do this, their wills begin to unleash. The girl quickly takes advantage of her character, and abuses its veil. This eager role-play makes both characters question whether the girl is acting, or becoming herself. Once the two get comfortable in their characters they begin to enjoy interacting with each other. The girl is no longer anxious, and the young man no longer feels in charge. They use the game to escape the consequences of their actual relationship. But the fun gets complicated when they begin to insult each other in a passive-aggressive manner. The more time they spend in their character the more committed they get to it and their wills begin to want control of the other’s. At this point it is clear that the girl isn’t playing a character because her will actually changes. Whereas the young man’s character is only a layer on the surface, and he begins to long “for her usual, familiar expression.”

Since it isn’t just a game for the girl, the young man quickly gets annoyed with her “character”. He begins to purposefully treat her like a whore because she refuses to return to the person she never was, but his eidolon. It might be true that some wills that are fighting for power might come to an agreement, but I don’t believe that such an agreement is made here, for their wills are on different levels of authenticity. Even if they could come to an agreement, it is clear that their wills desire different things. Deep into the game the girl begins to become herself, which drives the will to want to transcend. While the young man’s only goal is sex since he won’t be able to connect with the girl he doesn’t actually know. So an agreement isn’t possible.

I believe that this story echoes several of Nietzsche’s themes; especially his thoughts on Power. Nietzsche believed that there was no higher power, and that we are left alone with no excuse. Therefore, all humans contain this force of irrationality deep in their subconscious minds. We have a destructive urge to control all that we see. Yet the nothingness of our being condemns us to an existence of suffering. It is up to us to find the power to accept our free will, and to force order onto nothingness. Humans are scared to even dare to do this, which is why we have created the concept of God, so we may tolerate and measure our pain and pity ourselves. Nietzsche’s Will to Power directly relates to his idea of the Eternal Return. Because the universe is also in perpetual struggle; so to maintain its balance it is condemned to repeat itself for all of eternity.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store