What Does Deus ex Machina Mean

What Does Deus ex Machina Mean

The term deus ex machine is derived from Latin and means “God in machine”. This term was coined from the Greek tragedies where a machine was used to bring actors who played the Greek Gods to the stage. Later, this term developed into a plot device. In modern usage,  generally an unexpected character, object, or situation. For example, imagine an adventure novel, where all hope seems lost and the hero is going to be defeated by the villain. But then the hero is miraculously helped by a Goddess. This divine intervention is an example of deus ex machine.

Deus ex machina is often criticized as writer’s sudden resort to accidental, insupportable and implausible twists to obtain an ending highlights the inherent deficiencies of the plot. Deus ex machina is often considered to be a sign of an ill-structured plot. It is considered to be undesirable since it is an indication of the writer’s lack of creativity.

However, deus ex machina remains a popular plot device in today’s popular literature. Films, plays, novels use this device to bring a conclusion to the story. Authors commonly use deus ex machina to surprise the audience and to bring a happy ending. Deus ex machine is also used a comedic device in some comedies. Renowned playwrights like Shakespeare and Moliere employ deus ex machina to bring a happy ending to their comedies. You can see the examples of this plot device in the following section.

What Does Deus ex Machina Mean

In Euripides’ Medea, the dragon-drawn chariot sent by the sun god, used to convey his granddaughter Medea to Athens is an example of Deus ex machina in its literal meaning.


Examples of Deus ex Machina

In Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens uses a deus ex machine in the climax where Rose Maylie turns out to be the long-lost sister of Oliver’s mother. Rose marries Harry, her long-time sweetheart which in turn allows Oliver to live with Mr. Brownlow.

Jean Baptiste Moliere Tartuffe, when all hope seems to be lost for Orgon’s family, Tartuffe is arrested by the king’s officer who arrives suddenly. This is an excellent example of a deus ex machine in a comedy.

In Shakespeare’s As You Like It, villainous Frederick has repented his faults after meeting an old religious man in the forest and decides to restore his legitimate brother to the dukedom and adopt a religious life. This unites all the couples, thereby providing a happy ending to the drama. Most of Shakespeare’s comedies such as The Winter’s Tale, Prince of Tyre, Cymbeline and Pericles use the deus ex machina to provide happy endings to the stories.

In Lord of the Flies by William Golding, the rescue of the children by the naval officer is often viewed as a deus ex machina since the officer’s arrival saves Ralph from a terrible fate.

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