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''Master Harold'' & '"Death and the Maiden'' help

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Hey all,


I'm not entirely sure if this is the right place to ask, but I need some help.

Next week I will be writing a paper 1 and paper 2 for IB English HL. 


I'm currently analysing the two plays for my Paper 2: ''Master Harold'' and the boys & Death and the Maiden.

I know enough about the characters, context, themes, symbols, motifs, authors, quotes.. etc. but there are a few things that I need help with:


- Why did both authors chose for an open ending and what is its purpose?
- What are the most important stylistic devices used and what are their purposes?


Any help would be appreciated a lot :)


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I'm not too sure about Master Harold, since I'm not reading that; sorry!!!

but, i AM doing Death and the Maiden *high five* :)


so here's my take:

(it's summarised though; a lot could be said, potentially a whole Paper 2 response...!)


Open ending in DATM

- Echoes the ambiguity in the play: if, at the end of the play, it is revealed that Roberto did or did not commit what he is accused of, the whole play turns into a (arguably more trivial) 'whodunnit', which detracts from the thematic meaning of the play. (Dorfman explores a lot of complex issues regarding: nature of a totalitarian dictatorship and its impact on people's psychologies, the fragility of human memory, the relationship/contradiction between institutional and personal memory, appearance v. reality, deceit and disguise, masculinity v. femininity, etc.)


- forces the audience to confront their own prejudices ~ who you sympathise with/who you blame reflects your political bias


- i think you could explore in detail the ending itself, especially the symbolism of the mirror (e.g. how it seems as if some of the members of the audience are implicated when the spotlight picks them out and you see them in the mirror, how it literally forces the audience to reflect, pun intended :P et cetera )



Important stylistic devices:


-triangulation of characters - three characters are present in the whole play, and only three. The way these 3 characters interact with each other, or how they do so when another is (think about the scenes when one character is forcibly removed/excluded, e.g. how Roberto and Gerardo 'connect' and interact naturally with each other based on their patriarchal values, professional status whilst Paulina stands behind a curtain eavesdropping, illustrates the distance between Gerardo and Paulina - Gerardo is someone else when Paulina is not around). You could go on to talk about the ideals/ideas that the characters stand for, thus demonstrating knowledge of context :)


- Pinter-esque dialogue (Dorfman dedicated his play to Harold Pinter and emulated his style). Through ostensibly casual, meaningless or incoherent dialogue exchanges,  the subtextual power-play and one-upmanship between characters is demonstrated; it also adds a degree of realism. Realism could be in itself a stylistic choice. Think: Act I Scene 1 - Paulina and Gerardo talk about car-jacks and mothers-in-law....not exactly interesting! But taking into account what it demonstrates about their marital relationship (i.e. they are just not 'connecting' or understanding each other), it serves the important purpose of foregrounding the development of the action later on (e.g. whose side Gerardo will be on, whether Gerardo and Paulina will reconcile intellectually and emotionally, etc.)


- Sound and lighting effects + their symbolic meaning - the sound of the sea, the cassette recorder, the spotlight used to pick out audience members near the end of the play, the music... tons to explore here :)


- Death and the Maiden as a literary motif - the metaphorical 'dance with death' (the death figure would be Roberto) and the 'maiden' (Paulina, who ironically 'comes back to life' by confronting her death figure, gaining power and a 'voice' she hasn't had in 20 years since her torture and rape)


- setting - the terrace (as a refuge for Paulina, a place of relief from the claustrophobic environment of the beach-house), the whole play being set in one place (the beach-houes, duh.), the concert hall at the end (how the characters seem to transcend the 4th wall and join the audience, which forces the audience to realize, uncomfortably, the relevance of the play to their own time and place)


There are some more stylistic devices, and definitely more can be said about the ambiguous ending - the notes i've made above are by no means exhaustive, just some of the key points that sprung to my mind.


Hope this helps :D

Good luck next week!!!

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Thanks a lot! That's really helpful. 


Could you also tell me something about structure and its effect? I don't really know much about that either actually. 

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