Death and the Maiden

The Relationship Between Character Symbolism and Chilean Society in Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden 12th Grade

In the play, Death and the Maiden, Ariel Dorfman employs symbolism through the characters and their actions to reflect aspects of the corrupt Chilean society that Dorfman himself lived through. Act II, scene i illustrates the symbols quite well, with the troubled, unjust Paulina, the professionalism and tranquility displayed by Gerardo, and the unfortunate situation that Roberto finds himself in. All of these represent different elements of the Chilean society that had long been a dictatorship.

Dorfman uses the character of Paulina to represent relentless power and inexorable control. Dorfman does this by having Paulina play the role of judge or dictator that rules over society. The character of Paulina coincides with the concept that all the power and control rests in the hands of the corrupt government. Dorfman does this by having Paulina perform certain inappropriate or harsh actions to have her way and garner complete control. Paulina is not always exactly unfair, but she always maintains control. For example, she tells Gerardo that she will “give [him] all the time [he] need[s] to speak to [Roberto], in private” (Dorfman 31). Dorfman displays here that Paulina is seemingly being reasonable, but in actuality, her motives...

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