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September 14, 2005

Foreshadow, Fastforward

Treadwell, Machinal (Finish) -- Drama as Literature (EL 250)

Judge: "You confess you killed your husband?.. Why?

Young Woman: "To be free."

This play is about the importance of right motives. Had Helen not married for status or money, her life could have been longer and better. I feel somewhat sympathetic for her, and my personal beliefs about the wrongness of the death penalty definitely influence my opinion. Nonetheless, she is still guilty of murder.
There is an interesting pattern involving foreshadowing throughout the play that Amanda touched on, using the example...

HUSBAND: What are you reading?
HUSBAND: You must be reading something.
YOUNG WOMAN: Woman finds husband dead.

"Wow, that line is awesome! Talk about major foreshadowing!"

Many of the events that happen in the play are recognizably foreshadowed, but also interestingly, assumed or skipped. For Example, Helen's marriage happens in between scenes. One scene it is talked about and foreshadowed, and in the next it's old news.
Again, this trend of foreshadowing an event and then immediatly fast-forwarding past it, happens between scenes seven and eight. Helen is merely suggesting her husband's murder in seven, and in eight she's on trial for it.

I dislike the end of the play, not because I wanted a happy ending, but Helen can't possible learn how to be happy when she's dead... Is the message the play is trying to send that love is something to die for? It seemed too emotionally overwrought, and I think it was a poor conclusion.

Posted by DavidDenninger at September 14, 2005 04:04 PM


I completely agree with you as far as that line goes, it definately foreshadow's the ending. What's really disturbing to me though, is the fact that Helen's husband did not pick up on ONE single hint that she dropped him when they were reading together. She certainly dropped enough. Do you think he actually did pick up on it, and didn't know how to react, so he ignored it? Or do you think that he didn't pick up on it at all? I'm not sure.

Posted by: Chera Pupi at September 14, 2005 06:44 PM

David, I think that the message of the play could be that love is something to die for, but I don't think that Helen died for the love of a person. I feel that she died for the love of finding peace. She was in love with someone who did not love her back, so I don't think that she killed her husband so that she could necessarily be with him. I think that she just wanted to be free, so in a way she was in love with freedom.

However, another possible message that the play was trying to send was that love is the most important thing in life. Our life missions are to find a purpose for ourselves and I think that Treadwell was trying to say that you have to make your decisions carefully, while taking into account the long road of life.

Posted by: Andy LoNigro at September 14, 2005 09:17 PM

Andy, I think you might be right about the play's message being-- Love as a concept is worth dying for, making Helen a martyr for this ideal.

Posted by: David Denninger at September 14, 2005 11:35 PM

You guys crack me up...anyway David, good catch about the "important" events in the play would not actually be acted out...they are just foreshadowed and then referred back to. I didn't really think about that, but I do think it is significant. Treadwell seems to me to be a very deliberate playwright, and I think not having those events actually occur within the play make it more dramatic.
And, remember how Prof. Jerz said that this play would be competing with silent films...well I think that is another reason this was done. In a silent film the wedding and the murder would have to be shown. It couldn't skip these important parts because without the dialogue the audience wouldn't know what happened. So this is another way Treadwell is doing what a silent film can't.
One more thing - thanks for the blog comment, I agree that the song and its title are significant.

Posted by: Lorin Schumacher at September 15, 2005 12:56 AM

I don't think Helen's husband picked up on it at all, Chera. He reminds me of Torvald from A Doll's House. Both plays seem to have the men that rarely pick up on things. However, I think Helen's husband definatly has greater power than Torvald.

Posted by: Amanda at September 15, 2005 09:47 AM

I am a hopeless romantic, so the idea of "dying for love" is so...romantic to me, no pun intended. However wrong murder may be, I keep trying to view the actions of the young woman from her side.

Posted by: Katie Lambert at September 15, 2005 11:46 AM

I don't think the conclusion was that "love is worth dying for." She didn't want to die. She wasn't sacrificing herself for love - she got caught. It was a statement against capital punishment.

Posted by: Kayla at September 15, 2005 07:54 PM

Btw, if you're looking for a character that was willing to die for love, I think Karen in "Heart in the Ground" was the one. She was willing to die for a child who was already dead.

Posted by: Kayla at September 15, 2005 08:15 PM

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