The Nature Of Torture In Death And The Maiden By Ariel Dorfman

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In Death and the Maiden, Ariel Dorfman captures the brutal nature of torture, demonstrating the complexity and ambiguity of what constitutes human rights. Paulina’s rights are violated and is therefore forced to exist within a sense of moral ambiguity, in which she believes justice is at the cost of Roberto’s human rights. The “grayness” of Paulina’s morality demonstrates that the notion of human rights is both subjective and equivocal. Paulina’s decision to violate the rights of Roberto—specifically the right for any individual to not be subjected to cruelty or torture— reflects Paulina’s favoring of her own set of moral principles. Through Paulina’s shift from being a victim to a torturer and her need to seek justice, we see how Article 7…show more content…
From the description of her beach house, Dorfman paints a picture that depicts Paulina living a wonderful, lavish life. Yet, we soon learn how incapable Paulina is of moving on from her traumatic past, rendering her a prisoner to the nightmares that plague her. In Death and the Maiden, Schubert is a quartet Paulina is unable to listen to, describing how she “always prays that they won’t put on Schubert” and feels extremely ill the moment she first hears the quartet (Dorfman 17). Her physical and emotional well-being is distorted by listening to a piece that is part of her traumatic past. The “hysteria” Paulina experiences during the Schubert piece occurs again when Paulina recognizes —or at least inherently believes to recognize—the voice of her torturer from fifteen years ago. Paulina is adamantly called “sick” by her husband Gerardo; yet, Paulina clearly finds Gerardo’s claim to be unimportant, as she states she “can be sick and recognize a voice” and further refutes Gerardo’s statement, by stating that “when we lose one of our faculties, the other [senses] compensate [and] get sharper” (Dorfman, 18). She continues and states how “not an hour has passed that [she] hasn’t heard it, that same voice, next to [her]...that voice mixed with saliva” (Dorfman…show more content…
By applying her own form of punishment, she thinks that she is able to regain some form of justice and control of her life. Living under a government that is a newly democratic state shows how devalued experiences such as sexual assault and political imprisonment are. It’s almost as if Paulina is operating under her own form of government, where she is forced to make her own rules on what and what doesn’t constitute human rights. In Death and the Maiden, Dorfman illuminates a larger issue: human rights aren’t necessarily “rights” in the eyes of the government. It forces people like Paulina to take control and in their fury and hunger; to break free from the ghosts that haunt them; to make decisions that cause these victims and survivors to be bound by the ghosts they so badly want to break free

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