The Unsettling Hypocrisy of Justice | University of Virginia Undergraduate Application Essay

As a staunch believer in the absolute nature of human rights and justice, I never expected the struggle of a distraught, middle-aged Chilean woman to challenge me quite in the way that it did. From the moment I was first introduced to Ariel Dorfman’s play “La Muerte y la Doncella” in my IB Spanish literature class, I was gripped by the complexities of the character of Paulina, an innocent woman who was kidnapped, raped, and tortured during the rule of a ruthless dictator, and who finds herself face to face with her torturer 15 years later.

Throughout the duration of the play, Paulina agonizes over her dilemma of whether to kill the man who has caused her unfathomable suffering, or whether to let her husband, the head of the truth and reconciliation commission, press the man to publicly acknowledge his abuses, but ultimately let him free in an attempt to reunite the fractured nation. Dorfman leaves me desperate for an answer at the end of the play, as Paulina’s ultimate decision is enveloped in a shroud of mystery, yet through his masterfulness he forces me to consider daunting questions reaching far beyond the apparent ethical dilemma of when is it justified to kill.

After the curtains draw shut, I am left grappling with…

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