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Roberto’s Inconsistencies

            Ariel Dorfman certainly gives her play “Death and the Maiden” an ambiguous ending, and it leaves the reader wondering two things: if Paulina killed Roberto and if Roberto was guilty or innocent. Since the time interval of events is so short, the reader is never able to get a good judgment on Roberto’s character. When reading the play, I noticed some inconsistencies in Roberto’s character that would make me believe that he is guilty.

            One inconsistency begins in act one scene two when Roberto shows up at Paulina and Gerardo’s home. Roberto and Gerardo discuss how serious the punishment should be for the past dictatorship and they share their opinions on the amnesty of the past regime. Surprisingly, Roberto takes an extreme stance and says that the people of the past dictatorship should all die. He says, “I’m for killing the whole bunch of them” as well as “there are people who simply don’t deserve to be alive.” This merciless and violent stance is expressed quite casually and calmly as well, and these statements would indirectly characterize him as a violent man. Now later in the play in act two scene two, Roberto is pleading to Gerardo to free him and says, “I’m a quiet man. Anyone can see that I’m incapable of violence- violence of any sort sickens me.” This statement is a complete contradiction to his violent stance on the past regime. How could Roberto advocate for the death penalty to all involved in the dictatorship when “violence of any sort sickens” him? I would argue that at the beginning of the play is best way to judge his character because he is not tied up and in his most natural state. This state would show his true personality because he does not know that Paulina is Gerardo’s wife. Also, the violent nature without a doubt line up to what he is accused for.

            The next inconsistency is brought to light by Paulina. Roberto successfully manipulates Gerardo into getting the story from Paulina in order to forge the false confession. However, Paulina gives Gerardo false information in which Roberto corrects in fear of not getting the confession correct. This provides further proof that Roberto is lying and trying to manipulate Paulina into thinking that she has the wrong guy. The corrections that Roberto makes are so unique to the story that in order to know that information he had to have been involved in Paulina’s torture..

Poetic Injustice

I find it ironic that Gerardo, a justice on the Commission, is serving the biggest injustice to his very own wife. The beginnings of Gerardo’s promise first appear on page 35 where Paulina says, “…what did you swear you’d do to them when you found them? ‘Some day, my love, we’re going to put these bastards on trial. Your eyes will be able to rove’ – I remember the exact phrase, because it seemed, poetic – ‘your eyes will be able to rove each one of their faces while they listen to your story.'” Gerardo offered her sweet, consoling words but seemingly only to keep her placated and submissive.

Gerardo’s intentions of placation continue to become more noticeable on page 45 where he and Roberto are alone in the kitchen. Gerardo tells Roberto that he needs to confess to the part, even though Gerardo has doubts that Roberto is guilty because Gerardo thinks his wife is “sick” and wants her to stop her madness. How is Gerardo supposed to fulfill his promise of justice to Paulina if all he does is question and belittle her? It seems as though every opportunity Gerardo has to seek the truth, he turns a blind eye to the evidence laying before him because, if Roberto somehow is proven innocent, Gerardo’s career would be over before it was made. His justice for Paulina is a self-serving one in which the end assists him, not his wife.

On page 63, Roberto confesses to Paulina that Gerardo coached him on his confession; however, on the following page, Paulina in turn admits to Roberto that she expected him to do so which is why she fed Gerardo incorrect details which the abuser then subconsciously corrected. Paulina had apparently abandoned hope of her husband carrying through on his promise of justice and sough it herself. Gerardo never completed his promise of poetic justice, and in the end, whatever justice was doled out was delivered by Paulina herself.