Foreshadowing and Dramatic Irony in Death and the Maiden

Categories: Irony
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Foreshadowing is the warning or the indication that something else is going to happen later on in the story. In Death and the Maiden, Ariel Dorfman uses this literary device to the maximum, exploring all the different ways he can make the reader predict or foresee what’s going to happen next. However, Dorfman also takes on the audience’s ideas and implements dramatic irony, giving the plot a twist of events and making the audience question themselves and their own theories as to why the character acts that way or why the author set things as they are.

Dorfman takes the idea of dramatic irony when referring to the characters and their roles in the play. The greatest contrast in the play is between Paulina and Gerardo. Paulina Salas, a forty year old woman, waits for her husband late at night when she sees a car come towards her house. At first, Paulina is presented as the typical housewife, scared, insecure, loyal and loving towards her husband, who might even feel inferior, since she feels safer and secure when she has the gun.

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There is, however, an understatement, between the roles Paulina and her husband, Gerardo Escobar, play.

First he calls her ‘Poor little love’ (Act 1, Scene 1, p. 4) and continues to see her as his little, dependant, fragile, used woman, that can only do what women at the time were supposed to do; housework. Yet, during their conversations she only gives him sharp, short responses, most of the time seeming even a bit harsh: GERARDO: I’m really not in the mood for arguing, but we had agreed that… PAULINA: You were supposed to do it.

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I take care of the house, and you take care of- GERARDO: You don’t want help but afterward you… PAULINA: -the car at least.

GERARDO: …afterward you complain. PAULINA: I never complain. GERARDO: This is an absurd discussion. What’re we fighting about? I’ve already forgotten what we… PAULINA: We’re not fighting, darling. You accused me of not fixing your spare… (Death and the Maiden, Act 1, Scene 1) This conversation shapes the idea of gender roles in the play, and how later on she becomes ‘in-charge’ and Gerardo becomes the ‘wife’, she wants to be in control, wants to have authority, but in a more passive-aggressive manner.

In addition, one can also argue about Paulina’s love-hate relationship with Gerardo, as she is clearly very emotionally attached to him, yet seems as though she treats him with a sort of disrespect or harsh manner. Paulina’s strange relationship also brings the audience to question this woman’s sense of judgment, and maybe even her past.

Ironically, later she refers to him as ‘my little man’, contrasting with how he called her, and making sure that Gerardo knows that he is her husband, and she’s in charge. Furthermore, Dorfman shows the dramatic irony in the gender roles once Paulina finds out about Doctor Miranda and gets the gun.

At the beginning of the play, the gun was a sign of safety and security, and by the climax, she uses the gun to manipulate Roberto and Gerardo to do what she wants, and what she thinks is ‘fair’. GERARDO: Paulina, I’m asking you to please give me that gun. PAULINA: No. GERARDO: While you point it at me, there is no possible dialogue. PAULINA: On the contrary, as soon as I stop pointing it at you, all dialogue will automatically terminate. If it put it down, you’ll use your strength to win the argument.

(Death and the Maiden, Act 1, scene 4, pgs- 24-25) Paulina knows that without the gun, she is hopeless. Her own husband won’t listen to her, and they think she’s completely crazy. All she wants is justice and to make things even between her presumable rapist, Dr. Miranda, and her. However, the ‘strength’ she’s is referring to is open to the audience’s interpretation. It might have something to do with his metaphorical strength, his job as a lawyer, is to bring out justice and put things back the way they were; the way things have always been done.

A more farfetched idea is that it could be a reference to his physical strength, since men are generally stronger than women, which relates to the fact that Paulina was raped and tortured, making reference to sort of, in a way, daring him to physically win over her. In conclusion, Ariel Dorfman uses foreshadowing to help the audience shape their own ideas and theories regarding the play, yet uses dramatic irony to, in a way, twist the plot to sort of give it an interesting turn of events, like the gender roles in Death and the Maiden? and give the audience something they hadn’t thought of, hence, the irony.

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Foreshadowing and Dramatic Irony in Death and the Maiden. (2016, Sep 13). Retrieved from

Foreshadowing and Dramatic Irony in Death and the Maiden

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