Death and the Maiden Essay
“Be a husband, not a lawyer.”
How does the situation that Paulina and Gerardo find themselves in, mirror the situation in the country in which they live? How does this enable the playwright to explore the dilemmas facing the country?
“How to forgive those who have hurt us irreparably?” The play “Death and Maiden” carries within it the disturbing truth of whatoccurred during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile from 1973 to 1989 where Dorfman presents to his audience the consequences inflicted on the population of such an event. In this play, Ariel Dorfman, explores a delicate issue raised during the end 20th century that left citizens traumatized and paranoid for years after. As Chile progressed into Democracy, a great deal of the populationdidn't, leaving people such as Paulina Salas, representing the victims of the dictatorship scared and abandoned by the Rettig Commission, Roberto Miranda, embodying the terror and paranoia the old regime inputted on Chile, left to acknowledge the responsibilities him and the other supporters of the old regime inputted on the victims and finally Gerardo Escobar, symbolizing the new era put upon thepopulation but is left caught between this mayhem. If he represents justice he shows impotence by his wife's rape and choses the good of the country over his wife's need for revenge. If he stands by his wife, he's not doing his job of restoring peace to this wounded country. The relationship between Gerardo and Paulina mirrors the situation in the country at the time, dividing “those who wantedpast terror totally buried and those who wanted it totally revealed” hence why there is still this need for vengeance from all the victims who suffered. Once the new regime had been installed, the ones who weren't victims expected the victims to forgive and forget, something which Paulina Salas and the rest of the victims surely found impossible. The play also illustrates the natural faults of humannature, such as desire for power or lies/betrayal that not only leads the situation of the country to worsen but also scars relationships such as Gerardo and Paulinas.
The unstable relationship between Gerardo and Paulina reflects the state of the country and carries with it a theme: Love and Marriage, which centers the quotation of the essay. This theme is explored as we see Gerardo andPaulina's marriage on the verge of falling apart. At the beginning of the play, we get an immediate sense of jealousy from Paulina as she directly suspects Gerardo has been with a woman, “was she pretty at least?” which we later find out is due to the fact that while she was captured he had been having an affair with another women. Gerardo tries to justify his actions by explaining “My God, I'm alsohuman.” This is where the trust in the couples relationship is completely ruined. Paulina realises that while she was being tortured to the extent that she could die, simply to defend his name, he is lying in bed with another woman. It could be asked why, after fifteen years, does the subject still come up in their daily lives. Through the fifteen years they had not once fully explained to oneanother what had happened in the two months they were apart. In Act I scene I the subject of the affair comes up, but Gerardo avoids her response “Why indeed? I just can't imagine why?”. Later in Act III scene I, the subject rises again but simply because Gerardo needs the full details of exactly what happened when she was tortured, to be able to inform Roberto of the story so that Paulina will releasehim. He couldn't handle the truth of those two months for fifteen years as it had no effect on the good of the country and now to set this stranger free he deceives his wife into believing he wants to hear the truth to be able to move on and put the past behind them, “Forgive yes, forget, no. But forgive so we can start again” when really he is simply asking so he can serve justice and to set,...
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