Paulina and Schubert

In “The Death and the Maiden,” Paulina takes it upon herself and Gerado to try Roberto in a household trial. The goal of this trial is justice and closure for Paulina, who seeks to get Roberto to confess to his crimes. Yet, the trial is unique in that it is occurring privately rather than publicly, making me question how this distinction impacts the effect it has on Paulina. One way I think we can see how it impacted her is through the symbolism of Schubert’s orquestra. In the end, I believe we can see that Paulina does receive some justice and/or closure (I’m not sure they are the same and how to draw the line between them in this instance) for the crimes committed against her.

While she was trying Roberto, she explained how she could not listen to Schubert’s quartet because it was played by Roberto while she was raped. Paulina says. “And now, I’ll be able to listen to my Schubert again.” (21). This hope of Paulina’s after trying Roberto becomes true. In the last scene, Paulina and Gerado are at a concert hall to hear the orquestra of Death and the Maiden. This action is symbolic and I read it as her receiving some sort of feeling of closure/justice as she now has the power to listen to Schubert again, a power taken by Roberto predating his trial. Yet, during the concert it is clear that there is still a gap in her satisfaction of the trial’s result: “Paulina does not applaud” unlike the rest of the audience (66). This makes me wonder what would it have taken for her to clap, which to me would have signified her feelings of complete and total justice/closure. Would it have been for Roberto’s crimes and name to be public? Would it have been for him to be punished under law? Or perhaps, is this as far as justice can reach for Paulina, and Roberto’s crimes will always slightly stain her appreciation for Schubert?

One thought on “Paulina and Schubert”

  1. It’s really interesting to think about Paulina’s ability to sit through that concert as signaling something about how her “private” trial of Gerardo may have led to some kind of progress after all. My own reading of the ambiguity of those final moments of the play is that total closure is likely impossible precisely because, as you note, there’s no mechanism for holding Gerardo (and/or people like him) publicly accountable for their crimes, which means Gerardo and people like him are going to end up sharing public space with their victims, exactly as we see dramatized.

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