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Symbolism Of The Black Panther In The Play The Visit

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

In the play The Visit by Friedrich Durrenmatt, the antagonist, Claire Zachanassian returns to Gullen in the hopes of getting vengeance on the town and the protagonist, Alfred Ill. The town hopes the millionairess will restore Gullen to its past glory however, it becomes clear that the town’s financial salvation will come with a high moral prince – Ill’s death. In Friedrich Durrenmatt’s play The Visit, he uses the symbol of the black panther in order to express the idea that when people yield to the temptation of wealth, it causes them to lose sight in what is morally right. Durrenmatt uses the symbol of the black panther to portray Ill’s characteristics and his role, as the town’s last hope to salvation, which was given to him by the antagonist, Claire. At the end of Act I, Claire charged Ill of being the father of her child, however, Ill denied her claim and Ill got two witnesses to say that they slept with Claire. This prevented the verdict from distinguishing who the father truly was. Claire was later forced out of the town and came back after she became wealthy in order to get her revenge on the town for turning her into a prostitute and Ill for breaking her heart. Claire brings a variety of this with her to Güllen, and among them is “a black panther in a cage”. 

The black panther correlates to the nickname she gave to Ill which she frequently stated. However, Ill and the black panther share more than just a name, they are both imprisoned and tortured by the same person, Claire. In the end, both Ill and the black panther meet the same tragic end at the hands of the townspeople. Since the townspeople place their desires for wealth over their morals they constantly fall into the temptations of wealth and power without realizing future consequences and effects. Claire knew that the town would go through with her condition, therefore she knew the town would face the consequence of carrying around the burden of killing one of their own citizens. Furthermore, we later find out that Claire’s black panther had escaped and that the policeman must hunt it down, “the whole town has to hunt it down”. Ill makes a connection that the town is not only hunting the black panther but also him. Ill realizes what the town is planning on doing to him and he states to the Policeman, “it’s me your hunting, me”, however, he denied any plot against Ill and proceeds to hunt the black panther. This demonstrates how quickly the town jumps to defend themselves when they are accused of something. This also demonstrates how the falls under the influence of Claire because of her power and wealth over the town. Moreover, the town desire to restore their former glory with the money Claire is offering, displays that the town would place their desires for wealth over their morals. In addition, Claire placing death on Ill’s shoulders and in return providing the town with 1 billion dollars, creates an offer difficult to refuse. The readers witness the town slowly yielding into the temptation and what was thought to be the unthinkable turns into the inevitable. Therefore, through the use of the symbol of the black panther, Durrenmatt suggests that Ill’s life depends on the town’s greed and desire for wealth. 

Durrenmatt uses the symbolism of the black panther to foreshadow Ill’s tragic death. The black panther is symbolic of the foreshadowing of Ill’s life in this play, and Claire refers to Ill several times by the nickname “black panther”. Once the townspeople had found the black panther, after it had escaped, there was a loud gunshot; the black panther had died. The image of the black panther next to the coffin foreshadows that Ill will be the next to die. Moreover, this demonstrates that because the black panther and Ill are correlated in the play, Ill will end up being “hunted like a wild beast” and he will have the same fate the panther had to face. This creates confusion in the play because Ill does not know what to do; if Ill were to escape, he will end up getting caught and killed just like the black panther. In addition, Ill tries to find help from the Mayor however he does not help to Ill because the Mayor, just like the town, wants Ill to be killed so that the town will finally be wealthy. When Ill approaches the Pastor, the Pastor sides with the town and the mayor however, when he was faced with real death, the black panther’s death, the guilty Pastor exposes the town’s motivations of trying to kill Ill and urges him to “Flee, and lead them not into temptation by staying”. This shows that when the Pastor finally realizes that what the town was doing was morally wrong, he put aside his greed and temptations and spoke the truth. At the end of the play, Ill was killed by the townspeople and Claire granted the town the one billion dollars she promised. The audiences see the progression of the town placing their selfish desires over one of their own citizens and Claire gets what she foreshadowed since the beginning of the play – revenge on Ill, by killing him, and revenge on the town by making them live with the guilt of killing one of their citizens. Therefore, Durrenmatt uses the symbol of the black panther to foreshadow Ill’s tragic death. 

Durrenmatt uses the dialogue between Ill and the townspeople to portray that the town will do anything to achieve wealth. In Act 2, after Ill had spoken with the Pastor, Ill decides to leave the town of Gullen. The Mayor, the Teacher, the Doctor, and all the men see Ill walking towards the bus stop with luggage. They all begin to question Ill on why he is leaving and they offer to, “ come along”, however, Ill refuses. This shows that the town will follow Ill wherever he goes until they have completed Claire’s condition, killing Ill. The townspeople even try to persuade Ill from leaving the town by saying“ no one is trying to kill you”. In addition, the repetition of statements made by the town towards Ill emphasizes that the town will not allow Ill to leave until Ill has been killed by one of the townspeople. Furthermore, the repetitions within the dialogue intensify the town’s message and it shows the town’s loss of humanity. Therefore, Durrenmatt uses the dialogue between Ill and the townspeople to demonstrate that the town will go to any lengths to achieve wealth. 

In the play The Visit by Friedrich Durrenmatt, Claire Zachanassian, the antagonist, returns to Gullen after being forced out, in the hope of getting revenge on the town and Alfred Ill, the protagonist. When Claire makes an offer that is hard to refuse, the readers witness the town’s morality fading away and we see that their financial salvation will come with a high moral price, Ill’s death. In Friedrich Durrenmatt’s play The Visit, Durrenmatt uses the symbol of the black panther in order to express the idea that when people yield to the temptation of wealth, it causes them to lose sight in what is morally right. 

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