Nameless Abortions

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Throughout Machinal, several things irked me about the book. I'm not saying I disliked it. I'm sure there is a reason for everything, but I just haven't found those reasons quite yet. The first is that no one is named. Sure, they may slip in each other's names in conversation, but the characters aren't named.

This makes the book sometimes hard to follow. Hard to see who is speaking. Perhaps the author does this to distinguish that these people and what happens to them could really be any people and that this woman (Helen I think) could be any woman with the same problem. She's not alone is her hopes, dreams, and misery.

The other idea is that every character in her is faceless, blank, and sterotypical like the opening people in Episode One. Maybe the idea there was to enforce that business is boring and all the workers are/act like the same person.

The other thing that challenged me was the change from the speaker "Jones" in Episode One to "Husband" is Episode Two...I can't really find an explanation for this.

Last thing, did anyone else think the Man and Woman at the bar at table 1 in Episode 5 were talking about getting the Woman an abortion? I wasn't quite sure of their meaning.

Machinal Opinions


To answer your question, yes, I definately believe that was what they were talking about in the bar, an abortion. It was as if the author was trying to use these two random characters to depict that this conversation could happen anywhere, and that the man's power to convince the woman, when she says "do you have the address?" is showin the fact that men basically had ALL of the power back then, and that women were constantly trapped, like the Helen character is. The world is ruled by men, and Treadwell tries to depict that via this little tiny, almost insignifigant passage.

Aja Hannah said:

But would a conversation like that really happen anywhere? I understand that it could happen to anyone, but so out in the public?

And what is the connection to the main characters? I think there is more to that than just showing females had no power. Maybe a lady who kind of wanted to keep her child in contrast to Helen who didn't want her child?

I agree that the conversation is about abortion; however, they refer to it very discreetly, so I don't find it odd to picture them having the conversation in a public place. They are also very probably not married, so it would be understandable if they did not live together and have a house to talk things out in, so they decided to come to a restaurant where they could sit in a secluded corner and have a private conversation. It definitely seems to comment on the "machine" of society with its very strict social conventions that are often at odds with people's personal feelings: Helen is married, so it is expected that she have a child, even though she doesn't want one, and the woman at the table, who most likely is not married, wants a child but can't have one. It shows how restrictive society at the time is.
Another conversation that's in this scene that irks me is the one between the Man and the Boy. It definitely reinforces a very negative stereotype about gay men being child predators that existed at this time. It too depicts a man having power over another person, but it's just unfortunate that a play that's so sensitive to society's stranglehold on women at this time seems so insensitive to homosexuals, a similarly marginalized group. Can anyone find another spin on the conversation between the Man and the Boy that I haven't picked up on?

Aja, I found it strange that the man was called "Jones" instead of something like "Boss" during the office scene, but I suppose that because the dialog includes answering the telephone they wanted to emphasize that this man's company bears his own name.

The scene between the Young Woman and her Mother has off-stage voices that reveal very personal moments, so I don't think in production the audience would find it any stranger to hear these details from the neighboring tables. Note that this was during the prohibition era, and that everyone is there in order to do something "prohibited."

Jennifer Prex said:

Concerning the fact that the characters are unnamed, it says in the introduction that "Machinal uses expressionist techniques to create a parable about 'an ordinary young woman...'" (viii). I think that the characters are unnamed because we are not supposed to look at each of the characters as one specific person. This is similar to the idea from Everyman, in which every character is named after the thing each is supposed to represent, such as Everyman or Good Deeds. The main difference, aside from the tone and subject matter, is that all of the characters represent people as opposed to concepts.

Aja Hannah said:

Jones is a pretty common last name I suppose. But, it is weird that he is the only person named (aside from conversations).

Ashley Pascoe said:

I think that the one of the main points to the conversation at the table in the bar is that we have to assume that it is about an abortion. Because we are only assuming this, the people around them can only make assumptions as well. Therefore, the people in their society won't truely know what their conversation is about. They can only make judgements.

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Ashley Pascoe on Nameless Abortions: I think that the one of the ma
Aja Hannah on Nameless Abortions: Jones is a pretty common last
Jennifer Prex on Nameless Abortions: Concerning the fact that the c
Dennis G. Jerz on Nameless Abortions: Aja, I found it strange that t
Matt Henderson on Nameless Abortions: I agree that the conversation
Aja Hannah on Nameless Abortions: But would a conversation like
Sara Benaquista on Nameless Abortions: To answer your question, yes,