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How is life after Pinochet and Chiles military government reflected through the eyes of Paulina Salas in Death and the Maiden?

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How is life after Pinochet and Chile's military government reflected through the eyes of Paulina Salas in Death and the Maiden? The play Death and the Maiden, written by Ariel Dorfman in 1990, is one which touches on themes of a harrowing yet important nature. Death and the Maiden introduces us to Paulina Salas, a 40 year old woman who has been left emotionally and psychologically scarred by the torture and rape which she endured whilst held as a political prisoner in an unnamed country. It has been a few years since the demise of the repressive regime, which also remains unnamed, and she lives in an isolated beach house with her husband Gerardo Escobar. Paulina never saw her captors but a major breakthrough occurs when a doctor who assisted a stranded Gerardo, Dr Miranda, calls at their beach house. Indeed, although Paulina never saw the face of her tormentor, she claims to recognise her voice and in order to seek moral justice, holds him captive, despite protestations from her husband. Throughout the play we are never certain of Miranda's guilt and the ambiguous ending leaves the audience to make their own mind up about the guilt of Dr Miranda. ...read more.


Though we do not ever know what becomes of the doctor, this scene highlights the unfortunate reality for the people who lived under Pinochet. Whilst the victims will forever live with the scars of oppression and inhumanity, nothing can lead to the full atonement for the sins of the past. Paulina seems to lament this when she is rants at Miranda "And why does it always have to be people like me who have to sacrifice, why are we always the ones who have to make concessions when something has to be conceded,"3. The memory of life for the Chilean people under such brutality can be relived in the play by a number of ways. What we must ask ourselves, however, is whether Paulina is simply a representation of what the victims went through or does she also represent a land that has been raped, albeit metaphorically. Is she still a prisoner? Indeed Gerardo seems to think so. When pleading with Paulina he tells her "You're still a prisoner, you've stayed there with them, locked in that basement."4 Are the people of Chile still prisoners? There is no denying the fact that the people of Chile can never forget the hardship which was bestowed upon them and this is something which we ...read more.


It makes the audience see what Paulina has been doing whilst seeking justice from Miranda. It shows that she has to face up to her trauma and indeed will probably always live with this. The whole point of Death and the Maiden was to not only be a microcosm of what not only Chile is going through but also what any country, be it Guatemala or Cambodia, which has made or is making the transition from dictatorship to democracy is going through. Indeed Paulina addresses the problems with the transition from dictatorship to democracy, "Isn't that what this transition is about? ... The Commission can investigate the crimes but nobody is punished for them?"5 Death and the Maiden was also quite possibly an attempt by Dorfman who was exiled during Pinochet's rule to deal with the consequences of having experienced the rule of the junta and indeed to highlight the fact that the search for justice was not one which could be taken with ease. Indeed, Dorfman achieved this through the eyes of Paulina Salas. 1 Act One, Scene One, Pg. 6 2 Act One, Scene Four, Pg. 18 3 Act Three, Scene One, Pg.44 4 Act Two, Scene One, Pg. 26 5 Act Two, Scene One, Pg. 27 ?? ?? ?? ?? Sean Okundaye English Miss Payne ...read more.

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