Der Besuch der alten Dame
Would you commit a murder for a million euro? What if you knew you could not be arrested? What if, by doing so, you were ridding society of an injustice? In Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s play ‘Der Besuch der alten Dame’, he explores the question of human nature and how far an individual and a society will go in order to prosper financially. He examines whether consistent rationalization will eventually outweigh morality and drive a small town to murder one of their own citizens for the sake of economic benefit. Dürrenmatt employs many different techniques in order to do this in a memorable manner including using elaborate staging, striking symbolism and compelling thematic content. The structure of the language used reinforces specific meanings, whilst also keeping the reader captivated. In the first section of the extract, the exclamatory dialogue is continually distributed between four men and a painter. This engages the reader’s attention from the outset. I would also argue that “Der D-Zug” (pg. 21), is alluding to D-Day, highlighting the importance of the train’s arrival, and that this is Güllen’s final chance for financial rejuvenation. The four men represent the people of Güllen, and express their views during the play. This is evident in the extract where they show their dissatisfaction with the small town’s current state- “Im verarmtesten-“
“erbärmlichsten Nest der Strecke Venedig-Stockholm!” (pg. 21) The location of this extract is also significant. The train station is in the midst of the action throughout the play, with a crucial scene here in each act. This can be seen with the arrival of Claire Zachanassian in Act 1, Ill’s attempt to flee Güllen in Act 2 in order to save his life, and finally, the murder of Ill in the third Act. This shows that the train station plays a pivotal role in the development of the play. The arrival of Claire Zachanassian directly after an announcement that a train has disappeared...
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