I found it particularly interesting how Machinal depicts the struggle of women for personal fulfillment in a world where alienation, commodification and automation reign supreme due to the growth of capitalism in the 1920s. Although women had achieved many successes during this time period: women no longer needed to be escorted by a male chaperone, women could work outside of the home, and women were recently given the right to vote – under the system of capitalism women found that they were still entrapped by the men in their lives. Young Woman was one such woman, who found herself inveigled by her husband. Before she married her husband she worked for him and she was forced to listen to him. Likewise, when she married him she was forced to listen to him, forced to live with him, forced to have sex with him and forced to raise a child for him.
In search for liberation, Young Woman kills her husband. Although there are some who would call the killing of Young Woman’s husband a cruel act, to Young Woman the death of her husband is a liberating act. She is not only freeing herself from the constraints of marriage, but she is also freeing herself of the constraints of capitalism – since her businessman husband is the symbol of capitalism in this play.
Consequently, Young Woman’s death at the hands of an electric chair illustrates how conformity is necessary in a capitalist system. Since Young Woman went against the conservative nature of capitalism by killing her husband, she in turn has to be killed so that her ideas do not infect anyone else who lives under the capitalist system. Hence, capitalism can be compared to stage four cancer. You may want to get rid of it and you might even try to get rid of it, however it continues to spread and spread.