Death and the Maiden

by Ariel Dorfman

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How does Dorfman depict a power shift among Paulina, Gerardo, and Roberto?

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In Ariel Dorman’s play, Pauline and Gerardo Escobar are a married couple. They are basically happy together, but Paulina continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. In years past, while she was imprisoned by the repressive state authorities, a doctor at the prison repeatedly raped and tortured her. Gerardo is an activist lawyer investing the former regime’s abuses. Through an apparently random incident, Gerardo brings home Roberto Miranda, a man who had provided roadside assistance with his car. Paulina is convinced after hearing Roberto’s voice that he is the rapist. Having once been the victim, Paulina turns into the aggressor by confining Roberto. Gerardo shifts from supporting justice to abetting this illegal detention. Roberto—if he truly is the person Paulina believes he is—shifts from powerful to powerless as he is detained in the couple’s home.

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