In Death and the Maiden, Gerardo constantly opposes Paulina’s ideas and plans, providing a more rational and less emotionally-charged solution. Gerardo acts as the voice of reason to emphasize Paulina’s irrational and crazed tendencies in the play. Throughout his drama, Dorfman uses Gerardo as a representation of Paulina’s conscience and as the voice of reason to display Paulina’s state of distress.
Starting in the beginning of the play, Dorfman illustrates how calm Gerardo is in nature by comparing him to Paulina, who is undeniably nervous. Upon entering the house, Gerardo “sees Paulina hidden behind the curtains” (Dorfman 3). As Paulina interrogates Gerardo regarding his whereabouts, he answers her in a composed manner, attempting to calm her down. Gerardo constantly tries to reason with Paulina and show her a different perspective on certain situations. When Paulina questions whether or not her husband’s Commission only investigates cases that end in death, Gerardo responds with this, “The idea is that if we can throw light on the worst crimes, other abuses will also come to light” (Dorfman 9), attempting to explain to her that their legal processes are just, however patience is required to see that. This speaks to Gerardo’s unbiased tendencies and shows how he is peacefully trying to get justice for victims of all crimes. These traits of moral rectitude exemplify the actions of a moral compass or human conscience personified.
Furthermore, it is no coincidence that Dorfman wrote Gerardo as a lawyer. This profession is a humble one that entails fighting for what is just and protecting the righteousness of their client’s cause. In fact, Dorfman employs Gerardo as a lawyer to reinforce his persona of fairness. Even Roberto recognizes this fact when he tries to convince Gerardo let him go, “You’re a lawyer, a defender of human rights… you are responsible for what you do and what you must do is untie me immediately” (Dorfman 32). At this point Gerardo is unsure about whether or not Roberto is guilty and attempts to do what is morally right. After Paulina insists on killing Roberto, Gerardo scolds her, “Paulina, this is intolerable.” (Dorfman 33), acting as the voice of reason in order to present a side of the story to Paulina that she has not yet considered. Gerardo’s rational steps to subdue the situation work to show the reader the sharp contrast in thought processes and overall sanity between Paulina and Gerardo. Gerardo, being a lawyer, remains calm and makes the right choice to try and uncover all of the evidence before condemning Roberto.
Paulina’s crazy actions and tendencies are only exaggerated by the ways in which Gerardo handles these actions. Again, Paulina mentions killing Gerardo as a part of her idea to “put him on trial” (Dorfman 34). Gerardo questions this and asserts that they can’t “use their methods. To seek vengeance in this fashion is not-” (Dorfman 34). Gerardo is directly acting as Paulina’s conscience now and employs the idea that it is not moral to commit an immoral act solely because it was committed against the individual. Trying to make Paulina see how blind she was, Gerardo asks, “Are you going to kidnap them and bring them her and tie them up…” (Dorfman 34), however Paulina only replies as if the question was asked in a serious manner. Paulina’s mind is so set on getting revenge that she cannot even think straight, which prompts Dorfman to write an outside source (Gerardo) to be her conscience and try to talk some sense into her. Gerardo reiterates the idea of not reciprocating the violent actions, “If he’s guilty, more reason to set him free.” (Dorfman 38). He believes that there would be no reason to commit an unethical act, but to instead let Roberto live with the guilt, knowing that he had commit a heinous crime. When making the deal with Gerardo regarding what to do with Roberto, Paulina’s assertion that Roberto “is screwed” (Dorfman 42) if he is innocent plays to her confidence that he is guilty, but also makes her seem irrational, as she has no evidence to go on aside from the circumstantial evidence she had. Paulina’s negotiation with Gerardo regarding her plan to free Roberto if they can prove he is guilty speaks to Gerardo being her conscience. When making questionable moral decisions, it is not uncommon for people to go back and forth with themselves, debating the decision they should or should not make.
When Gerardo gets upset at Roberto and begins threatening to kill him, it is because he feels that he has enough evidence to say that Roberto is guilty. Although Gerardo acts as Paulina’s conscience, this desire to murder Roberto is considered to be immoral. However, the idea that he wants to kill Roberto is not surprising given that in times of anger and stress, it is possible for people’s’ judgements to be cloudy. Gerardo is simply consumed with anger and making rash decisions. However, even after Gerardo believes that he is guilty after hearing the recordings, he says “I wouldn’t stain my soul with someone like him” (Dorfman 62). This shows that after getting back to his senses and calming down from his emotional outburst, he is still the morally sound man he was prior to discovering the damning evidence.
Even when Paulina is interrogating Gerardo about when he had an affair with another woman, he is calm and always reasonable despite Paulina’s hostile nature when going about the situation. Dorfman uses concise sentences for Gerardo’s dialogue to show that he is in an eased state of mind. Gerardo’s dialogue here speaks to him being the voice of reason because of unbiased advice he gives Paulina. “Forgive, yes, forget, no. But forgive so we can start again.” (Dorfman 54). He gives this advice to Paulina to help her cope with the fact that he cheated on her, which was very mature given that he is the culprit in the situation. Although Gerardo is in the wrong, his placidity could make the opinion that the audience has of him favorable. The combination of this and Paulina’s hostility play to her unreasonable nature. In the beginning of the play, Gerardo says, “He’s a friend. So don’t be scared. Tomorrow you can make us a nice breakfast.” This short sentence plays to Gerardo’s calmness as it reads very slowly and calmly. Also, the stage direction immediately after the dialogue further displays the calm and gentle nature that Gerardo has about him, “Only the sound of the sea in the semi-darkness.” This quote paints the setting as being very peaceful and safe.
Ariel Dorfman wrote Gerardo as a sort of conscience to Paulina and as a voice of reason, overall. He shows this by contrasting the different natures of the two and how they handle situations. While Gerardo was the more calm and reasonable character, Paulina was a bit more tense, rash, irrational, and impatient. Dorfman uses Gerardo to counter Paulina’s personality and show how crazy she really is. Gerardo’s tendency to be a decent being and more patient often rubbed off on Paulina; although it never really changed her mind, his personality perhaps made her consider her situation in a somewhat less extreme manner.
Dorfman, Ariel. Death and the Maiden. New York, NY, U.S.A.: Penguin, 1992. Print.