Machinal

Fantasy and Symbolism in "Machinal" College

Rife with mechanistic imagery and characterization, the appearance of the water lily in Episode Six mimics the momentary respite which Helen Jones experiences in the presence of Mr. Roe. Nevertheless, the bowl with the water lily and its implementation in the murder of Helen’s husband, George, embodies the conflict within Helen’s decisions, and highlights the disconnect between fantasy and reality which permeates the play.

The water lily itself has great significance in many cultures, and is commonly associated with matters of love, rebirth, and beauty. In this scene, the water lily is the perfect physical representation of Helen. The lily serves as a reminder of her encounter with Mr. Roe, an encounter which feeds her fantasies of escape, and in many ways becomes the genesis for her own moment of rebirth: It is Mr. Roe’s story of escaping captors in Mexico which inspires Helen to eventually kill her husband. Beyond its significance as a reminder of Roe, the bowl with the lily mimics Helen’s complex character in a tangible way. Water is often a symbol of female sexuality, referencing the awakening of sorts which Helen has experienced for the first time. However, water is also a tool of deception, able to distort and even...

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