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