Past Affecting the Present in Death and the Maiden and Ghosts The past always has an effect on the present. Whatever events occurred or actions committed in the past would always have consequences, whether these are desired or not. The consequences, of course, may not immediately happen right after action but much later…
Such frustration is expressed many times in the arts and literature, which are the creative means of expressing one’s sentiments. This natural tendency to express frustration over the fact that the past always has an impact of the future transcends cultures and generations. Ariel Dorfman is Chilean, his play Death and the Maiden highlights this frustration. Henrik Ibsen is a Norwegian who belonged to an earlier era and wrote Ghosts, which also dealt with the subject of the past haunting the present. In both Death and the Maiden and Ghosts, the main characters of the story are all troubled by the past. Ariel Dorfman’ Death and the Maiden is set in country that has gotten rid of a despotic ruler after many years of suffering tyranny. While Dorfman does not specifically indicate what country this is, it may be safe to assume that the playwright based his plot on the experiences of the Chilean people in the post-Pinochet era. Whether he intentionally did or did not mention the name of the country, Dorfman managed to push his message across. The playwright knew that it was not just the Chilean people who experienced severe forms of oppression and injustice in the hands of autocratic rulers. Death and the Maiden is a play with only three characters. Its story revolves around the encounter of Paulina, her husband Gerardo, and Roberto, a doctor. Paulina was one of the many victims of a deposed dictator. She was part of the political opposition and was therefore considered by the dictatorship as an enemy. Captured for her political convictions, she was tortured and raped while blindfolded by members of the state forces. In the play, she recognizes the voice of Roberto as the doctor who raped and tortured her. She then attempts to take vengeance on Roberto. Gerardo, however, who takes Roberto to their home, tries to prevent Paulina from killing the doctor. Roberto insists that Paulina has mistaken him to be one who violated her, which Gerardo also believes. The conflict of the story can be found in Paulina’s assumptions and Roberto and Gerardo’s defense against it. Gerardo too despises the previous regime for its gross violations of human rights, but he believes that those involved in committing these should face a fair trial. Paulina, being a victim, has a more drastic and emotional approach to the prosecution of the offenders. Gerardo’s membership in the commission that investigates those who are involved in the killings under the regime is a contentious issue between him and his wife. Paulina is skeptical over the actual results of the investigations, which is what she means when she says “you hear the relatives of the victims; you denounce the crimes, what happens to the criminals?” (Act I, Scene 1). Gerardo knows that such issue could create problems in the marriage. When Roberto appeares, such issue of how the events of the past must be handled is highlighted in the ensuing conflict. In the entire play, it is clear that Paulina is more emotional when it comes confronting her past. Although Gerardo himself is affected by it, considering that he is Paulina’s husband, he is not the one violated. It was Paulina who was raped repeatedly by different men who were part of the state’s security forces, including Roberto. It was her who was tortured. When Paulina already has Roberto tied and gagged; the tiff between her and her husband centers on how she considers Gerardo’ ...
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