Deus Ex Machina

Meanings of “Deus Ex Machina”

The phrasedeus ex machina” means someone who comes in the very nick of time to solve a problem. It also means that an event or a power-saving a hopeless situation. As a device, it can be said as an unnatural plot device in a book or play. It is usually used in the work of fiction. The phrase has been derived from Latin. The objective of the use of such elements is to surprise the audience and bring the situation to a happy end.

Origin of “Deus Ex Machina”

The phrase “deus ex machina” is stated to have been used in Latin calque after it was borrowed from Greek. However, there is no proper evidence about its first usage or coinage. It is certain that it was first coined in the ancient theatrical conventions where gods were brought on the stage to help the actors raise their morale. Aeschylus, the Grecian playwright, is stated to have introduced this idea in the Greek theater. It was first used in English texts from the 17th century. John Sergeant, in his Solid philosophy, asserted against the fancies of the Ideists in the year 1697 wrote; “Nor is it at all allowable in Philosophy, to bring in a Deus è Machiná at every turn when our selves are at a loss to give a Reason for our Thesis.” Since then it has been variedly used in different situations and different meanings.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Deus Ex Machina  by Peter Bradley

Inside the cuckoo clock
he sits in claustrophobic silence
oblivious to the metronome ticking and
the soft clicking of the cog toothed gears
as the slipping of the pawl sets his universe unwinding
he thinks he understands his cuckoo bird life.

But somewhere in an alternate universe
a clock face smiles knowingly
as its hands move round and round,
each second turning into hours,
and hours into eternity as the cuckoo bird sits and
anxiously awaits the command to sing.

This poem presents a metaphorical storyline about a person who sits within his self-concocted timeclock with the delusions that he knows his life very well. However, the second stanza shows the clock demonstrating the fast passage of time to show that time waits for none. It is compared to a cuckoo that is sitting to wait to sing. The use of deus machina is quite elusive as well as implicit.

Example #2

Deus Ex Machina by A. E. Stallings

Because we were good at entanglements, but not
Resolution, and made a mess of plot,
Because there was no other way to fulfil
The ancient prophesy, because the will
Of the gods demanded punishment, because
Neither recognized who the other was,
Because there was no difference between
A tragic ending and a comic scene,
Because the play was running out of time,
Because the mechanism of the sublime
Was in good working order, but needed using,
Because it was a script not of our choosing,
Because we were actors, because we knew for a fact
We were only actors, because we could not act.

This poem sheds light on the human mess and shortcomings, saying that we are merely actors on the world stage to act according to the scripts written for us, showing its tragic ending interspersed with occasional comic scenes. This shows that man is just a puppet in the hands of gods or the higher beings. It also shows a metaphorical representation of the phrase through the allegorical story of humanity.

Example #3

Deus Ex Machina by Polar

Discard, eliminate
Evaporating all the blood
Left in our veins
Mankind, our breed
Create our god in the machine
Captive, victim, slave to a system
Apparatus, apparatus go live
Artificial, artificial online life

Man is alive, he’s alive
And undependable
Man is alive, is alive

Man is alive, he’s alive
And undependable
Man is alive, is alive

The above lines show that the singer wants to convey to his audiences that though he is counted as part of humanity, yet mankind has created god and made god part of a machine that is not only artificial but also part of a system. Despite this undependability of man, the singer wants to stress upon the point that “man is alive,” which becomes a refrain by the end lines. The phrase is used as a metaphorical representation here.

Example #4

Deus Ex Machina: A Novel by Andrew Foster Artscule

The story revolves around the contestants of the reality show on some island among whom a Marine sergeant, a lawyer, a poet, and a hairdresser are at the top but Gloria Hamma, a dentist, is a dark horse, for nobody has paid attention to her, though, she comes at the top near the end. Her victory seems to point out the implicit use of deus ex machina. Therefore, the phrase shows its metaphorical use.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “After Ricky reached the end of his story, he weaved it toward the death of the hero, but suddenly he used his deus ex machina and made a genie appear on the scene. This deus ex machina picked up the price and took him out of the hands of the cannibal tribe.”

Example #2: “After seeing all my characters dying one by one, I think of using a deus ex machina like old children tales to save them.”

Example #3: “Whenever Jonathan reads a children’s story, he is most upset over the use of excessive deus ex machina, making the story cliched and boring.”

Example #4: “Whether he uses deus ex machina or not, he is going to kill the hero, in the end, to turn it into a tragedy.”

Example #5: “When everyone feels the need for a deus ex machina, Sammy liked heartbreak and pain. He loved stories that ended in sorrow and misery.”