Roberto, Paulina and Gerardo as Symbols and Concepts
In Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman each of the three characters is extended to serve as a an allegorical concept that Dorfman uses to comment on the relation of past, present and truth in Chile and anywhere that a grave injustice that has occurred in the past still affects the present. The communication and interaction of these characters relates Dorfman’s views about healing past injustice and what role truth plays in this process.
One way to view Death and the Maiden is as an allegory for the situation in Dorfman’s home country, Chile, after the displacement of the dictator Pinochet. The situation presented in the story of a victim and her husband trying to deal with her torture and rape under a previous dictatorship unsure of where the guilty lie is one that would be common in Chile at the time that the story was written. This situation can be extended to include the struggles that the characters undergo throughout the story as they reflect the struggles that Chile itself is undergoing: trying to acknowledge and come to terms with the past, while trying to work to a good future, unsure where the guilty lie, unsure how past hurts can be healed. Each of the chara
Paulina"tms interaction with Roberto identifies him as a symbol for Truth, the best tool to heal the past. The fact that Roberto"tms fate and guilt is left open shows that according to Dorfman, the truth will never be nailed down, there will always be uncertainty, and for the victims, the past will never die. This conflict is Dorfman"tms representation of the massive underlying tensions in Chile that threaten to tear the nation apart. Through this Dorfman relates that Chile is not healed yet, because the archetype of Roberto exists in Chile and will for years to come. You"tmd have to take care of me all over again". Although she does not show it, Paulina is questioning too. Although Paulina seems sure of Roberto"tms guilt, his fervent denial gives doubt of his guilt to both Gerardo and the audience. While Paulina is talking about the corrupt judges in Pinochet"tms regime, she becomes very upset; Gerardo tries to confort her, saying "Paulina, Paulina. (72)This shows how Dorfman takes the problems of Chile and translates them into his play; the questions of Chileans that Dorfman presents are translated into the characters he creates and their interactions. Through this interaction Dorfman comments on the nature of truth. Everyone has the potential to become the accused. Dorfman himself says, commenting on Death and the Maiden,As I watched with fascination how the Rettig commission carried out its difficult task it slowly dawned on me that here might be the key to the unresolved story that had been buzzing inside my head for so many years: the fictitious kidnapping and trial should occur, not in a nation under the boot of a dictator, but in one that was in transition to democracy, where so many Chileans were grappling with the hidden traumas of what had been done to them while other Chileans wondered if their crimes would now be revealed.