Death and the Maiden

by

Ariel Dorfman

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Death and the Maiden can help.
Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Death and the Maiden published in 1991.
Need another quote?
Need analysis on another quote?
Need analysis for a quote we don't cover?
Need analysis for a quote we don't cover?
Need analysis for a quote we don't cover?
A LitCharts expert can help.
A LitCharts expert can help.
A LitCharts expert can help.
A LitCharts expert can help.
A LitCharts expert can help.
Request it
Request it
Request analysis
Request analysis
Request analysis
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

GERARDO: If I were to accept, I must know I can count on you, that you don’t feel . . . if you were to have a relapse, it could leave me . . .

PAULINA: Vulnerable, yes, it could leave you vulnerable. Stripped. You’d have to take care of me all over again.

GERARDO: That’s unfair.

Brief pause.

Are you criticizing me because I take care of you?

PAULINA: And that’s what you told the president, that your wife might have problems with . . .

Pause.

GERARDO: He doesn’t know. Nobody knows. Not even your mother knows.

Related Characters: Paulina Salas (speaker), Gerardo Escobar (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

PAULINA: Find out what happened. Find out everything. Promise me that you’ll find everything that . . .—

GERARDO: Everything. Everything we can. We’ll go as far as we . . . (Pause.) As we’re . . .

PAULINA: Allowed.

GERARDO: Limited, let’s say we’re limited. But there is so much we can do. . . . We’ll publish our conclusions. There will be an official report. What happened will be established objectively, so no one will ever be able to deny it, so that our country will never again live through the excesses that . . .

PAULINA: And then?

GERARDO is silent.

You hear the relatives of the victims, you denounce the crimes, what happens to the criminals?

GERARDO: That depends on the judges. The courts receive a copy of the evidence and the judges proceed from there to—

PAULINA: The judges? The same judges who never intervened to save one life in seventeen years of dictatorship? Who never accepted a single habeas corpus ever? Judge Peralta who told that poor woman who had come to ask for her missing husband that the man had probably grown tired of her and run off with some other woman? That judge? What did you call him? A judge? A judge?

As she speaks, PAULINA begins to laugh softly but with increasing hysteria.

Related Characters: Paulina Salas (speaker), Gerardo Escobar (speaker)
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

GERARDO: Oh, it’s you. God, you scared the shit out of me.

ROBERTO: I’m really so sorry for this—intrusion. I thought you’d still be up celebrating.

GERARDO: You must excuse my . . . — do come in.

ROBERTO enters the house.

It’s just that we still haven’t got used to it.

ROBERTO: Used to it?

GERARDO: To democracy. That someone knocks on your door at midnight and it’s a friend and not . . . —

Related Characters: Gerardo Escobar (speaker), Roberto Miranda (speaker), Paulina Salas
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

ROBERTO: No, I am telling you, and this is said straight from the heart, this Commission is going to help us close an exceptionally painful chapter in our history, and here I am, alone this weekend, we’ve all got to help out—it may be a teensy-weensy gesture but—

GERARDO: Tomorrow would have been fine.

ROBERTO: Tomorrow? You manage to get to your car—no spare. Then you have to set out and find me. No, my friend,— and then I thought I might as well offer to go fix it with you tomorrow with my jack—which reminds me— what happened to your jack, did you find out what—

GERARDO: My wife loaned it to her mother.

ROBERTO: To her mother?

GERARDO: You know women. . . .

ROBERTO (laughing): All too well. The last mystery. We are going to explore all the frontiers, my friend, and we will still have that unpredictable female soul. You know what Nietzsche once wrote—at least I think it was Nietzsche? That we can never entirely possess that female soul. Or maybe it wasn’t him. Though you can be sure that old Nietzsche would have if he’d found himself on a weekend road without a jack.

Related Characters: Gerardo Escobar (speaker), Roberto Miranda (speaker), Paulina Salas
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

We see her dragging something in, which resembles a body but we can’t be sure. As the scene continues, it can be seen that it is a body. She moves a chair and hoists the body onto it, ties it to the chair. She goes into the spare room, returns with what seems to be Roberto’s jacket, takes a set of car keys

from it. She starts to leave the house. Stops. Turns back to look at the body which is now clearly that of Roberto. She takes off her panties, stuffs it into Roberto’s mouth.

Related Characters: Paulina Salas, Roberto Miranda
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, Scene 4 Quotes

PAULINA: But here I am chatting away when I’m supposed to make breakfast, aren’t I, a nice breakfast? Now you like—let’s see, ham sandwiches, wasn’t it? Ham sandwiches with mayonnaise. We haven’t got mayonnaise, but we do have ham. Gerardo also likes ham. I’ll get to know your other tastes. Sorry about the mayonnaise. I hope you don’t mind that this must remain, for the moment, a monologue. You’ll have your say, Doctor, you can be sure of that. I just don’t want to remove this— gag, you call it, don’t you?—at least not till Gerardo wakes up.

Related Characters: Paulina Salas (speaker), Gerardo Escobar, Roberto Miranda
Related Symbols: The Gun
Page Number: 20-21
Explanation and Analysis:

PAULINA: D’you know how long it’s been since I last listened to this quartet? If it’s on the radio, I turn it off, I even try not to go out much, though Gerardo has all these social events he’s got to attend and if they ever name him minister we’re going to live running around shaking hands and smiling at perfect strangers, but I always pray they won’t put on Schubert. One night we were dining with— they were extremely important people, and our hostess happened to put Schubert on, a piano sonata, and I thought, do I switch it off or do I leave, but my body decided for me, I felt extremely ill right then and there and Gerardo had to take me home, so we left them there listening to Schubert and nobody knew what had made me ill, so I pray they won’t play that anywhere I go, any Schubert at all, strange isn’t it, when he used to be, and I would say, yes I really would say, he’s still my favorite composer, such a sad, noble sense of life. But I always promised myself a time would come to recover him, bring him back from the grave so to speak, and just sitting here listening to him with you I know that I was right, that I’m—so many things that are going to change from now on, right? To think I was on the verge of throwing my whole Schubert collection out, crazy!

(raising her voice, to Gerardo)

Isn’t this quartet marvellous, my love?

[…]

The real real truth is that you look slightly bored.

Related Characters: Paulina Salas (speaker), Gerardo Escobar, Roberto Miranda
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

PAULINA: It’s his voice. I recognized it as soon as he came in here last night. The way he laughs. Certain phrases he uses.

GERARDO: But that’s not . . .

PAULINA: It may be a teensy-weensy thing, but it’s enough for me. During all these years not an hour has passed that I haven’t heard it, that same voice, next to me, next to my ear, that voice mixed with saliva, you think I’d forget a voice like his?

(Imitating the voice of Roberto, then of a man)

“Give her a bit more. This bitch can take a bit more. Give it to her.”

“You sure, Doctor? What if the cunt dies on us?”

“She’s not even near fainting. Give it to her, up another notch.”

Related Characters: Paulina Salas (speaker), Gerardo Escobar (speaker), Roberto Miranda
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

GERARDO: Paulina, I’m asking you to please give me that gun.

PAULINA: No.

GERARDO: While you point it at me, there is no possible dialogue.

PAULINA: On the contrary, as soon as I stop pointing it at you, all dialogue will automatically terminate. If I put it down you’ll use your strength to win the argument.

[…]

GERARDO: You can’t do this.

PAULINA: When are you going to stop telling me what I can and can’t do. “You can’t do this, you can do that, you can’t do this.” I did it.

Related Characters: Paulina Salas (speaker), Gerardo Escobar (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Gun
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

GERARDO: Please, Paulina, could we start being reasonable, start acting as if—

PAULINA: You be reasonable. They never did anything to you.

GERARDO: They did things, of course they did things—but we’re not competing for some horror prize here, damn it— let’s try and be reasonable. Even if this man was the doctor of those terrible events—he isn’t, there’s no reason why he should be, but let’s say he was—even in that case, what right do you have to bind him like this, baby, look at what you’re doing, Paulina, think of the consequences of—

Related Characters: Paulina Salas (speaker), Gerardo Escobar (speaker), Roberto Miranda
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

PAULINA: You don’t know anything about Gerardo, do you?—I mean you never knew a thing. I never breathed his name. Your—your colleagues, they’d ask me, of course. “With that twat, little lady, don’t tell you haven’t got someone to fuck you, huh? Come on, just tell us who’s been fucking you, little lady.” But I never gave them Gerardo’s name. Strange how things turn out. If I had mentioned Gerardo, he wouldn’t have been named to any Investigating Commission, but would have been one of the names that some other lawyer was investigating. And I would be in front of that Commission to tell them how I met Gerardo—in fact I met him just after the military coup, helping people seek asylum in embassies—saving lives with Gerardo, smuggling people out of the country so they wouldn’t be killed. I was wild and fearless, willing to do anything, I can’t believe that I didn’t have an ounce of fear in my whole body at that time.

Related Characters: Paulina Salas (speaker), Gerardo Escobar, Roberto Miranda
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

ROBERTO: (coughs, then in a rough, hoarse voice): Water.

GERARDO: What?

PAULINA: He wants water, Gerardo.

Gerardo rushes to fill a glass with water and brings it to Roberto, giving it to him to drink. Roberto drinks it down noisily.

PAULINA: Nothing like good fresh water, eh, Doctor? Beats drinking your own piss.

ROBERTO: Escobar. This is inexcusable. I will never forgive you as long as I live.

Related Characters: Paulina Salas (speaker), Gerardo Escobar (speaker), Roberto Miranda (speaker)
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

GERARDO: But then, what are you going to do to him? With him? You’re going to—what? What are you going to—and all this because fifteen years ago someone . . .

PAULINA: Someone what? . . . what did they do to me, Gerardo. Say it.

Brief pause.

You never wanted to say it. Say it now. They . . .

GERARDO: If you didn’t say it, how was I going to?

PAULINA: Say it now.

GERARDO: I only know what you told me that first night, when . . .

PAULINA: They . . .

GERARDO: They . . .

PAULINA: Tell me, tell me.

GERARDO: They— tortured you. Now you say it.

PAULINA: They tortured me. And what else? What else did they do to me, Gerardo?

Gerardo goes to her, takes her in his arms.

GERARDO (whispering to her): They raped you.

PAULINA: How many times?

GERARDO: More than once.

PAULINA: How many times?

GERARDO: You never said. I didn’t count, you said.

PAULINA: It’s not true.

GERARDO: What’s not true?

PAULINA: That I didn’t count. I always kept count. I know how many times.

Related Characters: Paulina Salas (speaker), Gerardo Escobar (speaker)
Page Number: 34-35
Explanation and Analysis:

PAULINA: Oh, my little man, you do fall for every trick in the book, don’t you? Gerardo, you have my promise, as solemn as it can be, that this private trial will not affect you or the Commission. Do you really think I’d do anything to trouble the Commission, stop you from finding out where the bodies of the missing prisoners are, how people were executed, where they’re buried. But the members of the Commission only deal with the dead, with those who can’t speak. And I can speak—it’s been years since I murmured even a word, I haven’t opened my mouth to even whisper a breath of what I’m thinking, years living in terror of my own . . . but I’m not dead, I thought I was but I’m not and I can speak, damn it—so for God’s sake let me have my say and you go ahead with your Commission and believe me when I tell you that none of this is going to be made public.

GERARDO: Even in that case—I have to resign no matter what, and the sooner, the better.

Related Characters: Paulina Salas (speaker), Gerardo Escobar (speaker)
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

PAULINA:I would imagine pushing their head into a bucket of their own shit, or electricity, or when we would be making love and I could feel the possibility of an orgasm building, the very idea of currents going through my body would remind me and then—and then I had to fake it, fake it so you wouldn’t know what I was thinking, so you wouldn’t feel that it was your failure—oh Gerardo.

GERARDO: Oh, my love, my love.

PAULINA: So when I heard his voice, I thought the only thing 1want is to have him raped, have someone fuck him, that’s what I thought, that he should know just once what it is to . . . And as I can’t rape—I thought that it was a sentence that you would have to carry out.

GERARDO: Don’t go on, Paulina.

Related Characters: Paulina Salas (speaker), Gerardo Escobar (speaker), Roberto Miranda
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

GERARDO: Roberto, I want to be honest with you. There is only one way to save your life . . .

Brief pause.

I think we have to—indulge her.

ROBERTO: Indulge her?

GERARDO: Humor her, placate her, so she feels that we—that you, are willing to cooperate . . .

Related Characters: Gerardo Escobar (speaker), Roberto Miranda (speaker), Paulina Salas
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

ROBERTO: Playing roles, she’s bad, you’re good, to see if you can get me to confess that way. And once I’ve confessed, you’re the one, not her, you’re the one who’s going to kill me, it’s what any man would do, any real man, if they’d raped his wife, it’s what I would do if somebody had raped my wife. Cut your balls off. So tell me: you think I’m that fucking doctor, don’t you?

Pause. Gerardo stands up.

Where are you going?

GERARDO: I’m going to get the gun and blow your fucking brains out. (Brief pause. Angrier and angrier) But first you sonuvabitch I’m going to follow your advice and cut off your balls, you fascist. That’s what a real man does, doesn’t he. Real macho men blow people’s brains out and fuck women when they’re tied up on cots. Not like me. I’m a stupid, yellow, soft faggot because I defend the son of a bitch who screwed my wife and destroyed her life. How many times did you screw her? How many times, you bastard?

Related Characters: Gerardo Escobar (speaker), Roberto Miranda (speaker), Paulina Salas
Related Symbols: The Gun
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

GERARDO: People can die from an excessive dose of the truth, you know.

Related Characters: Gerardo Escobar (speaker), Paulina Salas
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

ROBERTO: A kind of—brutalization took over my life, I began to really truly like what I was doing. It became a game. My curiosity was partly morbid, partly scientific. How much can this woman take? More than the other one? How’s her sex? Does her sex dry up when you put the current through her? Can she have an orgasm under those circumstances? She is entirely in your power, you can carry out all your fantasies, you can do what you want with her.

Related Characters: Roberto Miranda (speaker), Paulina Salas
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

Gerardo and Paulina sit in their seats. Roberto goes to another seat, always looking at Paulina. Applause is heard when the imaginary musicians come on. The instruments are tested and tuned. Then Death and the Maiden begins. Gerardo looks at Paulina, who looks forward. He takes her hand and then also begins to look forward. After a few instants, she turns slowly and looks at Roberto. Their eyes interlock for a moment. Then she turns her head and faces tire stage and the mirror. The lights go down while the music plays and plays and plays.

Related Symbols: The Mirror
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:
No matches.