The Impact of the Concept of Power on Gerardo and Estebaan's Lives in the play, Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman, and the Novel, The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, respectively.
A dictionary definition of power can be defined as: the ability to do or act; political or national strength; might; force; or the possession of control or command over others. It is one of the key concepts that emerge from both the play, Death and the Maiden, and also the novel, The House of the Spirits. In both works there seems to be one character in particular who is greatly affected by this concept of power, namely Gerardo and Esteban Trueba respectively. The two men are very similar to each other, for instance, they both work for the government and are involved in politics, they both are involved in some sort of conflict involving their wives, and they have both gained and also lost power (of some sort) at some point in their lives. However, it is interesting to see how the two characters have gained, used, and lost power throughout the course of their lives.
By looking at the way in which both characters have acquired their power, we can see that there are both similarities and differences in the way in which that have done so. Gerardo, for example, works for the government and deals with politics. This gives him power on a political and national scale as he is a representative of his country. He also comes across as someone who is very good with communicating with people and can get them to do anything he wishes. For example, he persuades Roberto to confess to Paulina that he is guilty of all the charges that she has accused him of. He is also able to get his wife to listen to what he has to say even though she has a gun in her possession and does not at any point have to tolerate any “nonsense” that he wishes to tell her. This shows that to some extent, his ability to communicate well with people gives him the opportunity to gain power over them. Gerardo also gains power through his knowledge, particularly knowledge in his field of profession, politics. Due to the fact that he has knowledge about a number of different things, for example, politics, Paulina's history, and Roberto's background and story, he is able to take control of situations throughout the play, and therefore, to some extent, have power over both his wife and Roberto.
Esteban Trueba also works for the government and obtained the role of Senator in the Conservative party. This, much like in Gerardo's case, also gives him power on a political and national scale. He also gained power over the peasants since he decided to recreate Tres Marias after he retrieved it from his father. Esteban also lends money to Transito Soto to help her move to the city, who as a result, is now in debt to him. It can therefore be said that to some extent he has power over her as she now owes him something, whether it be money, or a favour or something else. These are all examples of acquiring power by means of taking control of someone of something. However, we see Esteban gain physical power (strength) when he is working in the mines. Esteban, at his own will, initially decided to work in the mines to earn some money that he could spend on his marriage with Rosa the Beautiful. During the whole time he was working in the mines, it was the thought of Rosa that gave him that physical strength to continue. To be more precise, the thought of Rosa gave him strength mentally to continue which in turn contributed towards an increase in his physical strength (power).
It is possible to see that the when looking at the way in which both Gerardo and Esteban gained their power, there are both similarities and differences in their chosen methods. However, when looking at the way in which they used their power, events that may seem different on the surface are in actual fact more similar than one may expect, and vice versa. Gerardo, for example, uses his power to bring people to justice, as that is his job; he works for the government in the field of politics. He also used his power to convince Paulina to listen to what he has to say, even under pressure (being held gunpoint) he is able to do so, and by using his political knowledge, explain to her the consequences of her actions, and so, has some sort of power over her due to the fact that he knows more about politics than she does, and so, it more suited to take a leadership role than she is. He is also able to persuade Roberto to confess to Paulina that he is guilty, and even to lie about it if he is innocent, so that she will let him go. Making an innocent man plead guilty is not an easy task, but because he has more knowledge about the situation, and therefore more power, such a task is made much easier for him.
Due to the fact that Esteban also works for the government, and is involved in politics, he uses his political power to try and win the elections in any way possible (both ethically and non-ethically). This is in contrast with what Gerardo does with his power as he uses it to being people to justice in the most ethical way possible. Esteban, on the other hand is so focused on winning the elections that he will take extreme measures in order to do so, whether they be right or wrong. Esteban comes across as being a very big headed man. This is reflected what he does as a result of gaining his power. For instance, a lot, if not most of the time, he uses his power to boss people around in some way or another, and there are many examples of this throughout the novel; for instance, as the man of the house, he uses his power over his family to throw his sister, Ferula, out when he finds her sleeping in Clara's bed. He also bans Pedro Tercero from Tres Marias due to the fact that he was distributing communist pamphlets to the residence that stayed on the estate. He also beats Blanca and tries to kill Pedro Tercero when he finds out about their secret relationship, and he takes his anger out on Clara (physically) who in turn never speaks to him again. He also makes Blanca marry Jean de Satingy after falsely telling her that he has killed Pedro Tercero. In contrast to Gerardo, we can see that Esteban seems to be the much more powerful man out of the two. Esteban knows he has power over people and at times, he chooses to abuse this power (unlike Gerardo). A classic example of this is when he promises the people of Tres Marias that he will give then a reward if in turn the tell him the whereabouts of Pedro Tercero. One boy, Esteban Garcia, does tell him his whereabouts and Esteban Trueba does find him. However, when it comes to giving the boy his reward, he receives only a slap, and is called a traitor. Also, when Esteban goes to reclaim Tres Marias, he dismisses all the peasants and burns their buildings to the ground (as opposed to choosing a non-violent method of dealing with the situation as someone like Gerardo almost certainly would have done). There are an uncountable number of examples of how Esteban has abused his powers both verbally (forcing Blanca to marry Jean de Satingy; lying to Esteban Garcia) and physically (Beating Blanca; trying to kill Pedro Tercero; and striking Clara). However, this is only one end of the spectrum.
There are also times when Esteban (much like Gerardo) has used him powers for the benefit of others. For instance, he writes a recommendation and gives a full scholarship to Esteban Garcia into the Police Academy that he requested from him. He also uses what little political power he has left to help Pedro Tercero and Blanca flee to Canada together to start a new life. If one looks past Esteban's power abuse, they will find a man who is in actual fact caring, and does care about others, especially his granddaughter, Alba.
It is also interesting to see what happens when both Gerardo and Esteban's powers are taken away from them. In Gerardo's case, it is almost as though this loss of power increases his mental power and is what gives him the incentive to gain that power back again whether it be in the same form or different. For example, Gerardo's fear of having to resign and have his political power taken away from his is one of his main incentives that allowed him to take control of the situation. Even though at this stage his political power has not been taken away, it could potentially be taken at some point in the near future. An example of when he is actually stripped of his power is when he sees Roberto tied to a chair in his living room and his wife with a gun in her hand. To some extent is can be said that he is powerless in this situation, but instead of accepting that as fact, he chooses to do something about it. Instead he uses his mental power and tries to convince Paulina to put the gun down by telling her what the consequences of her action are, and other negative outcomes that could arise as a result of such actions. Eventually Gerardo does get his way as Paulina does spare Roberto's life and returns to her normal self for the first time in fifteen years. It should be noted however, that in Gerardo's case, it seems to be that his mental strength, is a lot more powerful than his physical which is not necessarily the case with Esteban Trueba.
Esteban is crushed as a result of the earthquake, and as a result, is forced to use more of his mental power than his physical for some time. However, this does not have much of an effect on him. His mental power (intentions) seems to be just as strong as his physical. This is just one example of how his power has been taken away from him, and how it has affected him (not a lot). Another example is when Clara no longer allows him to sleep with her as she no longer finds it necessary to make love anymore. This leaves him powerless in the sense that there is nothing he can do that will change her mind, much like when he hit her and she never spoke to him again. Nothing that he does or can do will change her decision. As a result of Clara being taken away from him (essentially his new source of both mental and physical power) he seems to be going insane. For some reason he believes he is shrinking, but when he goes to the USA to consult the doctors there, they tell him that he is imagining things. There are also a number of indirect causes of Esteban's loss of power, mainly concerning that of Nicholas. On more than one occasion Nicolas threatens to humiliate his father and eventually does end up doing so. For example, Esteban releases his fury on Nicholas when Alba joins his Institute for Union with Nothingness. Nicholas reacts to this by humiliating him by showing up the next day in front of the Gates of Congress completely naked. This was not the first time that Nicholas has threatened his father with such humiliation. The first threat came about when he told him he would take his pants down in public if he did not let him change his name. Esteban is completely powerless and there is nothing he can do to change what Nicholas has done.
As a result in his loss of power, Esteban looks for help from outside of himself, as he does not feel that he is powerful enough to tackle certain tasks alone. For example, he becomes very depressed as a result of Clara's death and also the fact that nobody takes him seriously when he says that he is convinced that the communists are gaining power and so decides to look for satisfaction elsewhere (i.e. the Christopher Colombes Brothel where he meets Transito Soto once again). Eventually the socialists do win the election which leaves Esteban and his Conservative Party out of power. He does all he that he can to change this terrible outcome, but it is not enough. He is simply not powerful enough to change what has been done. Esteban is also taken hostage when he goes to Tres Marias with a gun when he finds out that the peasants have taken over the estate. He is unable to escape by himself and is eventually rescued by Pedro Tercero, the man whose fingers had been cut off by Esteban himself. It is ironic that the man with the physical disability (Pedro Tercero, due to his fingers), saves the man who is perfectly able, who in actual fact, gave him the disability in the first place. It can therefore be said, that at this point, it is evident that Pedro Tercero is in actual fact more powerful than Esteban Trueba.
More direct examples of cases where Esteban is powerless occur after the kidnapping of Alba. The political police have had Alba under surveillance for some time, and one night, they break in to Esteban's house, destroy everything in sight and takes Alba away. Esteban protests and continuously reminds them furiously that he is Senator Trueba and deserves to be treated with respect, to which they completely ignore. Esteban does all he can to find Alba but is unable to succeed. At this point he finally realises that he is in actual fact powerless and cannot succeed in finding Alba without the help of other people. He pays a visit to Transito Soto as she still has to repay him for the debt she owes him who in turn helps him find Alba and succeeds. Esteban wants to leave the country with Alba, but she refuses (as he predicted) due to her love for Miguel. He now realises that he has no power over any decision she makes in life or power over anyone else for that matter.
When looking at the impact of power between the two characters: Gerardo and Esteban, we see that there are a number of similarities and differences in the way in which they acquire, use, and lose their power (in whatever form it may be). However, there seems to be one distinct different that can be seen from such an analysis, and that is that Gerardo will do all he can to maintain his power as it is the lack of, or fear of losing power that gives him the incentive to do so; and when he eventually does lose that power, he finds ways of acquiring that power once again by using other means of power e.g. if not physical power, then mental power, and the majority of the time, succeeds in doing so. On the other hand, Esteban is so used to having such great power and becomes so bigheaded about himself, that once he loses this power, he becomes truly lost, and does not know how to deal with it. In other words, what seems to be the case is that when power is taken away from Gerardo, he becomes more powerful; and when power is taken away from Esteban, he becomes less powerful, or in certain circumstances, powerless.