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 characters embody part of Chile itself, Chile is a Victim, living in the past; Chile is an uncertain judge, trying not to sacrifice present stability by bringing up the demons of the past; Chile is the accused, standing trial for past crimes. 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 traum...