Money: Practical, Love: Impractical

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"Love! -what does that amount to! Will it clothe you? Will it feed you? Will it pay the bills?"

Machinal (Mother), page 17

Money seems to make the world go round, doesn't it? Well of course it does! (according to mother)  The young woman (Helen) is in quite a bit of a dilemma: she is faced with marrying someone that she does not love and her mother is putting the idea of love down.  Why would her mother be so cold as to scorn love?

The obvious reason is stated right within the quote.  Love is not as practical as a means of currency.  Money is practical and can provide for the human necessities and desires.  Love, on the other hand, merely is an emotion that is too much of a commodity to worry about.  But why is that so? I have only read about half of the play thus far, but it is interesting to speculate about love.

Almost immediately following the above quote, the young woman asks her mother if she had loved her husband.  The mother is confused at this question.  Perhaps she never truly loved her husband, but had only married him in order to have a means of living.  Maybe it goes deeper than that.  What if she had experienced the pain of a broken heart, perhaps displaying love for her husband but not receiving any in return? Either way, she holds love as an impractical idea.  It cannot do the work of the world for her, and hence, the young woman must marry in order to survive.  Love is a commodity that is too expensive, too unpredictable, and too unreasonable to consider.

Whatever reason(s) or lack thereof that the mother had for shunning love, one thing is certain: the young woman is lost without some deeper connection.

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/02/treadwell_machinal/#comments 

4 Comments

Aja Hannah said:

When she finally gets the connection with the man from Mexico, she blossoms from Young Woman to Woman. Even her husband could not do that for her. Love may not get her anywhere financially, but personally and emotionally it changed her.

Alicia Campbell said:

I agree with your interpretation; however, I think mother may have been putting down love and pressuring her daughter to marry a man she does not love for selfish reasons. Helen's husbaand was more than able to support both Helen and her mother. Suppose Helen did follow her heart and hold off to marry someone she really loved, or perhaps she did not marry at all, what would this mean in terms of Mother's security? While self-security may not have been the only or the most important reason to shun love and push Helen to marry a man for what he could provide, I believe it was a factor. In other words, the mother did not only want her daughter to marry a man for what he could provide her, but also for what he could provide her mother.

Christopher Dufalla said:

The idea of the mother putting down love for selfish reasons makes perfect sense. She wanted to reap the benefits of Helen's marriage in addition to the benefits that Hele, herself, would receive. Aja, I must say that I hadn't exactly thought of the growth that she experiences through her love with Mr. Roe. However, while she does grow in this love, at the same time she entraps herself. There is a bit of a paradox. When she claims that she feels unlike ever before when she is with Roe, there is the growth of person due to love. When she murders her husband she experiences an immediate freedom, but sadly, that freedom is not lasting:the murder sentence takes that away from her. In a sense, that love led to growth, bbut the growth quickly became cancerous.

Jennifer Prex said:

On topic of Helen's growth being cancerous, I agree that it is to an extent, but I think that there was more to it than that. There was something very off about her character's mentality. When asked why she murdered her husband, she responded that not only did she want freedom, she didn't want to hurt her husband by divorcing him either--yet she thought that killing him wouldn't hurt him (75). I do agree, however, that it is the love she has finally found that pushed her to this point.

As for the idea of love vs. money, I think it was a combination of selfish motives (as Aja suggests) and the idea that marrying for money just seemed to be more practical with their economic status (as you suggest) that caused the mother to push Helen in this direction. Thinking in terms of that time period, I don't think it was overly common for women to work--many depended on their husbands for an income, unlike today. Both the mother (selfish motives) and Helen (practicality) could potentially (and incidentally were) be dependent on Helen's husband.

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