In The Visit, Friedrich Durrenmatt uses irony and theatrical devices to convey the corruption of the town through greed and power of money

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The Socio-Political Issue of The Visit through Irony, Symbolism, and Brechtian Staging.

John Brown


        In The Visit, Friedrich Durrenmatt uses irony and theatrical devices to convey the corruption of the town through greed and power of money. Durrenmatt uses irony to show how the want for instant wealth can lead to the corruption of the entire town, mainly by the degrading of the ethical standards of the citizens. The alienation effect proclaims these issues in a way so that the audience can reflect on the issues and physically know it is a play. The examples of Claire using money to basically control the whole town makes it easier for the audience to tell that’s it’s a play. The viewers are able to understand the real concerns of the play and the problems within the plot because of the Alienation effect.

        Durrenmatt uses Irony to express the corruption within the citizens and the corruptive power of money. In the play, the citizens thought the money would ransom them from the decay of the town, but what eventually happens is that the greed of the town leads them to an ethical disaster, instead of the town progressing by their own means. Justifying this claim the mayor says in his speech, “We would rather have poverty than blood on our hands” (Durrenmatt 39). This catastrophe is nothing but an unfulfilled pledge, seeing that the town lets Ill down, finding excuses to justify their action of after all killing their fellow citizen and so called friend. Ill ironically believes that the town is on his side, which corresponds to the residents', who falsely believe that "you can't get anything you want with money (46)", utterances, yet contradicts the all in all truth. The town sold their soul to Claire and is no longer moral based on the decisions they make. The mayor is hypocritical in the sense that later on he wants Ill dead, but for the benefit of the town. The morality of the Mayor’s secretive decision is inhumane because he agreeing on killing Ill for the benefit of the town. The outrageous decision of the mayor is hidden within the town because everyone suddenly starts to buy expensive items, while nothing of the decision has gotten out. The morality is what Durrenmatt poses on the audience to implement on the reads own interpretation of the play. They unconsciously agree to the millionaire’s deal, which makes everything they say or do ironic since they do not carry out their loyal promises. One example of Irony that presents itself in the very beginning of the play is the town’s name. The town’s name, Guellen, was not chosen at random because the exact translation from German means manure. The name is ironic, since it depicts a metaphor of the town’s, for the first time physical state, and its subsequent state of morality. The name, Guellen represents the forever corruption such as in the beginning where it was a matter of poverty and later when it was their unethical choices. Another indication of the moral collapse of the town is the words coming out of the Mayor’s mouth, “If they boom we’ll all boom…”(Durrenmatt 26). This quote indicates the mayor’s consideration of the deal because he wants the factories to prosper and that could only happen with Claire’s power and money.

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Due to the town's great economic depression, the townspeople believe that the money will ameliorate their conditions; however, it eventually leads to their own demise because they lose their own sense of morals and standards. Yet, this “thin veneer of morality is quickly stripped away in the face of”(Durrenmatt Handout 4) greed, which ultimately results in the destruction of the community. Claire’s physical features were ironic to the amount of power she had. Claire has a prosthetic leg and hand, which symbolizes that she, could never die. These physical features portray her shrewd but powerful ways of manipulating the town ...

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