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Durrenmatt: Corruption Due To Wealth Essay

Corruption due to Wealth through the Character of Claire in The Visit: A Tragicomedy The Visit is a play written by Friedrich Durrenmatt and contains qualities from both tragedy and comedy. The play follows the billionaire Claire and her quest to exact vengeance upon her ex-lover, Alfred III. She will give the town of Gullen a billion dollars if one of the townsfolk kills him. Through the characterization of Claire, Durrenmatt illustrates the corruptive effects of wealth. Durrenmatt characterizes Claire as arrogant due to her wealth by her actions and dialogue.

In the beginning of the play, Claire arrives unexpectedly in Gullen ecause she pulls on the emergency brake of a train. The train conductor is furious: TRAIN SUPERVISOR: Madam, you pulled the emergency brake. CLAIRE ZACHANASSIAN: I always pull the emergency brake… This is Gullen, Moby, I recognize the pathetic little dump.. TRAIN SUPERVISOR: Madam, this will cost you dearly. CLAIRE ZACHANASSIAN: Give him a thousand, Boby… And three thousand for [a fund]. TRAIN SUPERVISOR (bewildered) : There is no such [fund] Madam. CLAIRE ZACHANASSIAN: Then start one. (9-11) Claire’s pretentious attitude is clearly present in her introduction.

She believes she can do anything as demonstrated y her pulling the emergency brake. She also describes her town of birth as a “pathetic little dump”, showing that she has grown to despise her origins due to her newfound wealth. Claire addresses the train supervisor as if she is always right with short and succinct responses. Her concise way of speaking demonstrates that she does not care about the supervisor enough to give a detailed response. Claire also says that she, “always pull[s] the emergency brake”, suggesting she has done this multiple times without regard for safety of the other passengers.

Her wealth has corrupted her to the point where he thinks she is in the right for delaying an entire train so that she may arrive at her destination quicker. Once the supervisor states that there will be repercussions to her actions, Claire offers him a thousand dollars. Again, she speaks concisely and with a commanding tone. Durrenmatt forms the image of Claire as a multi-millionaire who believes she can do as she pleases and get away with it due to her large amount of wealth. Claire’s concise dialogue also suggests that a thousand dollars is worth nothing to her and that she can freely give it away.

Her wealth enables her to get away with actions that would otherwise have negative consequence, thus allowing Claire to be rude and cocky. Claire then gives away even more money, which bewilders the train supervisor. She commands the supervisor to start a fund rather than asking if a fund existed in the first place. This establishes herself as an authority figure due to her abundance of money. Her riches allow her to command others through bribery. The introduction of Claire establishes her as a stubborn character that uses her assets to her advantage.

Sarcasm is frequent throughout the entire play, and due to its mocking nature it establishes Claire as patronizing. In the first ct of the play, the local choir of Gullen sings to Claire as a welcome. However, as the choir sings, a train passes by and drowns out their song and Claire comments, “Well sung, Gulleners. Especially that blond bass on the left, with the big Adam’s apple, was remarkable” (15). Claire compliments the noise of the train rather than the actual choir. Claire mocks the choir by suggesting in her dialogue that the train itself was part of the choir and was better than any of the members.

Her mocking establishes that Claire has no respect for the choir. Claire views her status due to her wealth as above the local ownsfolk to the point where she can freely mock the school’s attempt at signing. Calling the train a “blond bass… with the big Adam’s apple” further compares the train to a person and a member of the choir. The noise from a train rushing by is far from music, but Claire calls it “remarkable”, further poking fun at the choir. Claire does not hide her contempt and dislike for the choir’s song as her wealth allows her to do as she wishes.

As the train passes, “It]he choir struggles against the clattering” (15), demonstrating the effort the choir puts into their song and their ttempt at singing over the noises of the train. Claire disreg their efforts and instead compliments the same noise that drowned out the choir’s song. Claire’s sarcasm has the subtext that she dislikes the choir and their song. Using tone, Durrenmatt presents Claire as bossy and pretentious due to her wealth. Claire demands the death of Alfred IIl proclaiming: “I can afford justice. One billion for Gullen, if someone kills Alfred III. Deathly silence (35). Claire’s dialogue is direct and to the point.

Her commanding tone indicates her arrogant confidence in her own abilities. Wealth has corrupted er personality to the point where she presumes that she “can afford justice”. Claire believes that, with enough cash, one can purchase abstract concepts such as justice. Her command adds to the dark tone as well, directing the town to “kill.. Alfred Ill”. Claire’s funds allow her to get away with murder. No repercussions arise due to her request as the townsfolk desire her wealth as well, and will commit killings for it. After her speech, a stage direction calls for a “[d]eathly silence” to fall upon the stage.

The silence itself is “[d]eathly”, further establishing the gloomy and ominous tone. The silence epresents the town’s disbelief at Claire’s proposal. However, the silence also represents the town’s consideration of Claire’s proposal. The people of Gullen have lived in poverty for years, and are easily swayed by the promise of wealth. It is due to this wealth that they would even consider the killing of their own neighbor. Claire’s proposal and the townspeople consideration show that power of money and its use as bribery. Durrenmatt uses characterization and dialogue to show the effects of wealth on other characters surrounding Claire.

II approaches the town officer, hoping for protection against Claire’s death sentence. Ill notices the officer’s changed appearance: “Why do you have a gold tooth…? ” to which the officer replies: “Are you out of your mind.. have to go… I have to hunt [the black panther] down. The whole town has to hunt it down”(49). This scene shows that the corruptive influence of wealth is not only limited to Claire, but spreads to the townspeople as well. The officer has a new “gold tooth”, indicating that he can waste money on trivial objects. The officer still remains in poverty, but acts as if he can buy random items such as a golden tooth.

Rather than anticipate that he may end up in poverty again, the officer decides to purchase unnecessary items due to his avarice. His actions are due to Claire’s offer of a billion dollars, showing that greed corrupts everyone, including law officers. The officer then leaves as “[t]he whole town has to hunt [the panther] down”. This shows that Claire has taken complete control over the town and can get them to do her bidding. She has control as she hangs the large price of a billion over Ill’s head. Greed drives the townsfolk into threatening II.

II was a respected member of the town, but once Claire offers a illion, the townspeople attitudes change completely. Durrenmatt uses this change in characterization to show the power money has in swaying people. Claire’s dialogue throughout the play suggests that the influence of wealth corrupted her. Towards the end of the play, the teacher confronts Claire on her heinous actions. She dismisses his complaints: “Human kindness… is made for the purses of millionaires. With financial power like mine, you can afford yourself a new world order. The world made a whore of me, now l’ll make a whorehouse of the world” (72). In this scene,

Durrenmatt gives Claire a condescending and snide tone, as if she is above all others. Claire states she no longer needs kindness due to her millionaire status. This shows how little she regards others now that she has gained a large amount of money. For Claire, cash can manipulate and even outright buy kindness. Claire then states that with her wealth, she, “can afford.. a new world order”. Her corruption due to wealth extends to the whole globe. Her affluence makes her believe that she can even change the laws of the world. The phrase “new world order” suggests that Claire intends to revolutionize he world in her image.

The tone in this scene is confident and sure, showing that Claire truly believes that she can change the rules around her with just money. Durrenmatt creation of Claire shows the corruptibility of mankind through greed. A Tragicomedy written by Friedrich Durrenmatt contains themes on the avarice of humankind. He suggests that money can influence other to commit atrocities or turn against each other. Large amounts of wealth can corrupt people due to their intense greed. Using Claire’s characterization, Durrenmatt portrays the corruptive effects of wealth. The Visit:

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