The Dichotomy Between Sanity and Insanity in Durrenmatt's The Visit and Dorfman's Death and the Maiden

Essay by nida90 February 2008

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A sane state of mind is generally associated with serenity and an individuals’ ability to decipher between iniquities and make sound judgment. However, in Frrederich Durrenmatt’s The Visit and Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden, a paradoxical dichotomy of sanity derived from a perceived insane state is revealed. Although these two plays differ in plot, they both present a common theme of vengeance sought by a seemingly fanatical female protagonist. Death and the Maiden exposes Paulina Salas as a tortured and raped blindfolded woman that years later believes she recognizes her capturer. In The Visit, similar Claire Zachanaishann wishes to render justice years later for the grievance delivered to her by her lover; Ill. The two plays demonstrate the conflicting dichotomy between insanity and sanity and the related irony of the gain of consciousness through the loss of sanity. Durrenmatt reveals this through an alcohol motif representing intoxication while Dorfamn uses the theme of memory in Paulina’s experience to reveal the ambiguous nature of sanity.

The alcohol motif in The Visit is present in all relation dealing with morality. The blind pair Koby and Loby reveals that they had been bribed by Ill with a pit of brandy to lie in court and testify that they had impregnated Claire instead of Ill. As a later consequence Claire seeks revenge and “blinds and castrates” them (Durrenmatt 38). It is in this condition that they are brought back into the town of Guellen to re iterate the truth. Ironically is as the “blind” pair that they confess the truth (Durrenmatt 25). Blindness connotes the loss of ones ability of sight and an associated impaired judgment; however ironically Durrenmatt displays that as one is drawn closer to a senseless state he ironically is more susceptible to gain consciousness and reveal the...