Death and the Maiden

by

Ariel Dorfman

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The Sea Symbol Icon

The sea is a background presence in Death and the Maiden, overlooked by Paulina and Gerardo’s beach house. It functions in subtle and various ways. First of all, it represents unknowability—and, indeed, big questions hang over the play: will the country be able to move on from the atrocities of the past; will Paulina ever truly recover from her trauma; and, crucially, is Roberto the same man that raped and tortured her? Paulina frequently looks out to sea, especially when she is recounting her past. In this light, then, the sea also represents her memory, both in the way her memories function in the depths of her unconscious and in the ultimate irretrievability of the past. The sea as a constant background also gestures towards greater expanses of time, suggesting that though the country’s wounds—and Paulina’s—may never be healed, they will, over time, come to be forgotten.

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The Sea Symbol Timeline in Death and the Maiden

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Sea appears in Death and the Maiden. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Female Empowerment Theme Icon
...going cold. A strong wind makes the curtains billow and there are sounds of the sea. (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Authority, Society, and the Public Theme Icon
...as their confidentiality is guaranteed.” Gerardo believes that eventually “the names will pour out like water.” Roberto says he wishes that were true. (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Memory, Trauma, and the Senses Theme Icon
Authority, Society, and the Public Theme Icon
Female Empowerment Theme Icon
...midday. Roberto is still tied up. Paulina is talking to him, looking out at the sea, rocking gently in her chair. She is evidently part way through the story of what... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Memory, Trauma, and the Senses Theme Icon
Just before evening, Paulina and Gerardo sit on the terrace facing the sea. Gerardo has the cassette recorder on his lap. He asks Paulina to tell him what... (full context)
Memory, Trauma, and the Senses Theme Icon
Authority, Society, and the Public Theme Icon
Female Empowerment Theme Icon
...confession on again from the beginning. Gerardo tells Paulina “it’s over.” She looks out to sea and sighs deeply. She suddenly turns to Gerardo, and says she’d thought, once Roberto had... (full context)