I would like to know what "total inconsequence" means in the following sentences:

‘You coming?’

First I slipped off my sandals, then my shirt. I folded it carefully and lay it on a soft spot on the ground. I took off my shorts, and then, with a flicker of hesitation, my underwear. You had turned away, swum a little way off. I stood there feeling the wind graze my chest, tickle me between my legs. I looked at the water. I couldn’t see through its body, couldn’t assess its contents. But I stepped in. And the water embraced me completely, softly and coolly. I felt myself anew, as if something in me had been switched on after a long time. It was a sensation of lightness and power and total inconsequence. I began to move, and every movement propelled me forward. The sky above was lighter than the water, specked with tiny clouds. I was conscious of the unknown underneath.

In this novel which is set in the 1980's in Poland under the socialist regime, where homosexuality was socially unacceptable, the protagonist Ludwik (a university graduate) left Poland in 1981 to live in the United States of America. And he remembers what it was like back then in Poland, where he went to the agricultural camp (which was mandatory for college graduation). At the camp, he met Janusz, who would soon become his lover. After the camp, Ludwik decided to go to a lake district with Janusz. They finally arrived at the lake district, and, as soon as they arrived, they began to swim.

In this part, I wonder what "total inconsequence" means. Actually, this expression appears about twice in this novel. The other sentence in which "inconsequence" appears is here, in Chapter 4, when they visited the university swimming pool:

During those weeks, you and I would go to the university pool every now and then. It wasn’t far from the Old Town, tucked in below the ramparts of the faculty grounds. I remember its large reception hall and the strong smell of chlorine – how I liked that smell – and the cloakroom where we left our shoes in a shared cloth bag. In the changing rooms we undressed amongst other boys, drying themselves, joking around, unaware of their nudity, or used to it like something that was a given – strong backs and thighs and asses, skin smooth and covered in drops like forest leaves after rain. But in a strange way this didn’t excite me. When we were naked like that, changing, showering amongst them, we weren’t really ourselves. We were lighter, without consequence. We took off our roles along with our clothes, and only belonged to the anonymous world of bodies. And when we swam our rounds and I pushed through the water, I felt even lighter. It reminded me of our summer together, of the ease with which we’d floated across the lake. As I swam I dissolved in the water, and something came to me from the depths of my memory.

And I wonder whether these "inconsequence" and "without consequence" mean the same thing. I had guessed from the "without consequence" in Chapter 4 that it might mean "without responsibilites," but, I think it could mean "without cares/worries/concerns," so I could not be sure.

I am an English learner from South Korea, so thank you for your patience in advance as I may not know obvious things. I would very much appreciate your help. :)

1 Answer 1


Yes, the author associates lightness with freedom and therefore with inconsequence, or with lack of consequence -- so free you don't have to care about the consequences of your actions.

  • Dear Gustavson, thank you so much for the explanation. Then would it be alright to understand that the narrator here felt that he shed the burden of responsibilities which accompany his actions, rather than that he felt that all his worries became trivial? Dec 18, 2020 at 15:53
  • 1
    I'm inclined to interpret that he felt relieved from any responsibility.
    – Gustavson
    Dec 18, 2020 at 17:35

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