Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 386
In act I, when the mayor hears of Claire’s offer of millions to kill Alfred, he is horrified. This early claim, however, later falls apart.
We are still in Europe; we’re not savages yet. In the name of the town of Güllen I reject your offer. In the name of humanity. We would rather be poor than have blood on our hands.
As the people start to warm to the idea, realizing that they will soon have money, they buy things on credit. When Alfred notices people’s new shoes, it dawns on him they are giving in. He first comments on one man’s “new yellow shoes,” and then those of another man, and then those of a woman.
You, too, are wearing new shoes . . . You too. New yellow shoes. New yellow shoes.
In act III, as the teacher and the doctor try to get Claire to invest a little money rather than give a lot (in order to spare Alfred), she disabuses them of their naïveté, telling them that she cannot buy the Wagonworks because she already owns them.
They question her about other enterprises and resources, including the foundry and the pencil factory. It turns out she owns the forest with its mines, the valley with its oil, and even the entire town with all its houses and streets. Whatever leverage the townspeople hoped to retain was illusory. Claire owns “everything.”
I had my agents buy up this rubbish over the years, bit by bit. Your hopes were an illusion, your vision empty, your self-sacrifice a stupidity, your whole life completely senseless.
When Claire and Alfred meet for the last time, she tells him how love motivated her actions and that she intends to take the coffin with his dead body to bury at her Mediterranean villa. She knows he no longer loves her, but she claims she does love him, in a way.
But my love for you would not die. It turned into something like the strong hidden roots of the forest, something evil like the white mushrooms that grow unseen in the darkness. And slowly it reached out for your life. And now I have you. You are mine. Alone. At last and forever.
Finally, she compares him to a ghost, peaceful in “a silent house.”
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