Driving home from his meeting with the President, Gerardo gets a flat tire when his car hits a nail in the road. He is forced to wait for 45 minutes for help because the spare tire in the car hasn’t been fixed. At home, Gerardo tells Paulina that it was her responsibility to fix it, while she maintains that the fault is his. This busted spare tire serves as a metaphor for the problems in Gerardo and Paulina’s marriage– the relationship needs work, but each participant is convinced that it the other must put in the effort to do so. Meanwhile, Paulina is still furious at Gerardo for his adultery fifteen years before and Gerardo feels Paulina’s fixation on the past is hindering their relationship.
The loaded gun (Metaphor)
Paulina is holding a loaded gun for most of the play in order to maintain control over Gerardo and Roberto. Although she fires the gun once in warning, we never see her use it to actually harm Roberto or Gerardo. Thus the gun serves as a metaphor for Paulina’s anger and her potential to commit violence, a visual reminder of the threat that her rage poses to the rest of the cast.
The soup (Metaphor)
In Act 2, Scene 2, Gerardo finally gets the opportunity to speak to Roberto alone over a bowl of soup that Paulina has prepared. Although Roberto initially refuses to eat with his hands tied, Gerardo offers to feed him while they discuss Roberto’s options. The soup therefore acts at a metaphor for the compromise to which Gerardo eventually gets Roberto to agree: if he “confesses” to his crimes, Gerardo will help him get to freedom. Just as Gerardo feeds Roberto soup, he also feeds him this idea of a compromise - and Roberto acquiesces to both.
The characters almost never use simile or metaphor when talking to each other; one exception, though, is when Gerardo explains to Roberto, “and once people start talking, once the confessions begin, the names will pour out like water” (17). This rare simile helps Gerardo to express his initial enthusiasm about the success of his Investigating Commission – he is extremely optimistic that as soon as a few victims start talking, more will begin revealing their captors' names. The use of the image of water shows that Gerardo hopes that this process will flow smoothly, while the events of the play will prove otherwise.
A Baby (Simile)
In begging Paulina for forgiveness for cheating on her while she was being held captive, Gerardo pleads, “I’m in your hands like a baby, I’ve got no defenses, I’m naked in front of you like the day I was born” (56). Gerardo compares himself to a baby here to emphasize his complete vulnerability – he has stripped himself of all defenses and laid himself bare before her. Paulina holds all the power in this moment; it is up to her to forgive him so that they can move forward together.
Death and the Maiden Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Death and the Maiden is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.