Death and the Maiden

by

Ariel Dorfman

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The Gun Symbol Icon

Paulina becomes the most powerful figure in the play with the simple fact that she is holding a gun and the other two men are not. The gun allows her to take control of a situation in which she could otherwise be physically overpowered. Gerardo pleads with her to put it down, arguing that only then can a true dialogue begin—but she believes that as soon as she puts down the gun any dialogue will end. A typically male item, the gun is also a phallic symbol, an extension of a (usually) male capacity for violence and desire for sexual dominance. Paulina’s use of the gun, then, is a further expression of her desire to assert a sense of control over the life and narrative.

The Gun Quotes in Death and the Maiden

The Death and the Maiden quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Gun. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Memory, Trauma, and the Senses Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Death and the Maiden published in 1991.
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:

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:
Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

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:
Get the entire Death and the Maiden LitChart as a printable PDF.
Death and the Maiden PDF

The Gun Symbol Timeline in Death and the Maiden

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Gun appears in Death and the Maiden. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Authority, Society, and the Public Theme Icon
Female Empowerment Theme Icon
Civilization and Violence Theme Icon
Paulina hears a car approach the house and seems agitated. She takes a gun out of a drawer, hides behind the curtain, and listens, hearing Gerardo expressing thanks to... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Female Empowerment Theme Icon
During the night, Paulina comes into the living room. She retrieves the gun again, as well as what appear to be “stockings.” She stands by Roberto’s bedroom, listening... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
Female Empowerment Theme Icon
Civilization and Violence Theme Icon
...up, he struggles desperately—and unsuccessfully—to free himself. Paulina sits in front of him with the gun. With a calm demeanor, she says: “Good morning, Doctor… Miranda, isn’t it? Doctor Miranda.” (full context)
Memory, Trauma, and the Senses Theme Icon
Female Empowerment Theme Icon
Civilization and Violence Theme Icon
...a “kind of madness.” He moves to help Roberto, but she threatens him with the gun. Paulina tells Gerardo that “it’s him”—“the doctor who played Schubert.” She recognizes his voice, she... (full context)
Memory, Trauma, and the Senses Theme Icon
Authority, Society, and the Public Theme Icon
Female Empowerment Theme Icon
Gerardo pleads with Paulina to put down the gun, saying there is “no possible dialogue” while she points it at him. She says, “on... (full context)
Female Empowerment Theme Icon
Civilization and Violence Theme Icon
...When she insists that she won’t, he moves towards Roberto. At this, Paulina fires the gun, surprised at the recoil. Roberto looks desperate. Gerardo tells Paulina to give him the gun,... (full context)
Authority, Society, and the Public Theme Icon
Female Empowerment Theme Icon
...would do that and says that if he does she’ll shoot Roberto before turning the gun on herself. He says she’s “unrecognizable.” Paulina tells Roberto to explain what he did to... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Authority, Society, and the Public Theme Icon
Gerardo arrives back at the house, prompting Paulina to pick up the gun again. She asks him whether the flat tire was easy to fix. He tells her... (full context)
Female Empowerment Theme Icon
Paulina points the gun at Roberto’s head, asking, “who are you threatening?” She tells him that “in here, for... (full context)
Female Empowerment Theme Icon
Paulina escorts Roberto to the toilet at gunpoint. When they return, she makes Gerardo tie up Roberto again. Gerardo pleads with Paulina to... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Authority, Society, and the Public Theme Icon
Civilization and Violence Theme Icon
Roberto’s comments anger Gerardo and he gets up to fetch the gun. He pauses and says that, actually, first he will follow Roberto’s advice and cut his... (full context)