Death and the Maiden

Understanding Paulina's Mentality: A Close Reading of Death and the Maiden, Act 2 Scene 1 Onwards 11th Grade

Significant dialogue from Act 2 of Death and the Maiden reveals how Paulina’s torture in the Chile’s past totalitarian regime has affected her life in the democratic present day. The ambiguity in the meaning of justice is a key theme that is significantly developed because the audience is exposed to two contradicting views from Paulina and Gerardo as they confront Roberto being tied up in a chair. Whether her abusive treatment is simply revenge for Roberto’s rape or an act of justice lies unknown as there is no definite answer for justice. Moreover, there is a sudden shift in Paulina’s behavior from being a belittled housewife to an aggressive abuser. Her growing animalistic behavior and her restlessness develop a mistrust with her relationship with Gerardo.

Paulina possesses abusive power over Roberto which seems to be cathartic but at the same time makes her more animalistic. At the start of Act 2, Paulina retells her memory to him as if he was her ‘confessor’, she hasn’t even told it to Gerado, her sister and ‘certainly not my mother’ because the truth (of her rape) will only hurt others. This reveals that Paulina has lived in repression and isolation because she cannot repair herself through sharing. It is implied through...

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