Death and the Maiden: Meddling With Death's Affairs

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Human vanity is that we think that we can surpass our own mortality and therefore we fail to grasp the larger picture, that of death’s omnipresence. Death’s looming presence overshadows the character’s actions in both Ismail Kadare’s Broken April and Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden. Therefore, it’s important to examine how the characters of the separate works approach the concept mortality, seeing how it fascinates them and how it shapes their lives. This can be seen in Broken April with the endless cycle of blood that Gjorg only succeeds in perpetuating, sealing his fate and leaving him to wander the bleak and desolate road. Similarly, Dianna feels the emotional tug of death’s threatening power and is transfixed by the doomed hero that Gjorg represents. Whereas Bessian is so in awe of death’s sublime power, that he removes himself from the reality of human demise. Conversely, in Death and the Maiden, Paulina attempts to control and manipulate death for her own personal revenge, seeking to reverse the roles of power in her life. At the same time, Gerardo attempts to look at the larger picture as he seeks to heal the scars left on his country’s soul by being the instigator of justice. In both novels, death is the background on which they are set: the endless blood feuds and the crimes of a past dictatorship.

The protagonist, Gjorg, has lived his whole life immersed in a world of blood, living as Bessian puts it “deep in death’s kingdom” and inevitably comes directly in contact with it as an unwilling murderer - forced by the ancient laws of the Kanun to step into the age-old tradition of blood feud, and thus begins the ending of his own life (Kadare 69). The concept of a life saturated by inescapable death is ingrained in him...

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...t of death, to feel the presence of the others, those of love and happiness. However, in Death and the Maiden, the only world that Paulina knows is one tinged by violence and death, and therefore all that she can see in her world is limited to the vicious revenge she can exact. Therefore, with this darkened and intensely focused perspective she ends up dragging everyone surrounding her along a path towards death. In this sense it can been seen that in Broken April the characters let death shape their lives passively, preferring to call it fate as it is a natural part of the world and regarding it as something strangely beautiful. Yet, in Death and the Maiden Paulina and Gerardo directly meddle with death’s affairs, seeking either to control it or to correct its wrongs. Nevertheless, they are just as caught up in a world of death as Gjorg, Dianna and Bessian are.

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