Isn’t it every woman’s dream to marry a rich man who will give her everything she desires? What about a rich man who loves only her and would do anything to make her happy? Any woman would be extremely happy to have such a life; It’s a fairytale ending! Sadly, no one ever questions whether the woman is truly happy in the end.
In Sophie Treadwell’s play, Machinal, Treadwell gives women a voice to express their thoughts and emotions about the daily pressures they face in a patriarchal society. Women are expected to fall in love, get married and have children, but the reality is, not every woman finds happiness in marriage. Some women are unable to find the happiness they are searching for and when they do find it, they cannot have it because they are trapped in a tangled web of grief. The woman in Treadwell’s play is searching for contentment. She wakes up every morning, performs the same routines, abhors her job, but she has to work or else she will not be able to take care of her mother. She then marries a rich man she has no feelings for, to see if marriage is the key to her happiness. Her marriage left her more depressed and confused than she was in the beginning. Now what? She deprives her husband of the love and affection he craves because if she tries to love him, the little bit of hope she has left will disappear. She openly shows her husband that she does not love him. Does he know? Quien Sabe? (Who knows)? That is of no concern to the young woman.
The young woman suddenly finds the happiness she desired in the beginning.in another man, a man she considers to be her “type.” She wants to be with this man but she is trapped. The burning desire to be free from a marriage that suffocates her life pushed her to kill her husband. Surprisingly, she forgot one important thing, women cannot be “Free” in a patriarchal society. The law is not concerned about her desire to be free. The emotional roller-coaster she experienced does not provide her with sufficient reasons to take an innocent life, especially a man’s life. After killing her husband, she may have thought she was free but this freedom she craved caused her death. She can no longer feel pressured to live in a world that deprives her of freedom.
Treadwell gives the female character a name at the end of the play, Helen Jones. Helen is on her own now. She no longer represents “Any woman” at this stage. Helen is an individual who must face the consequences of her actions on her own. Helen repeatedly shouts, “Somebody,” towards her final scene. No one responds to Helen. Treadwell is indicating that sometimes, “Somebody” does not exist. Helen’s freedom was denied, Helen’s voice was denied. No one could help Helen. Did anyone know what Helen was experiencing internally? “Quien Sabe?” But what we do know is that in such tragic experiences, death maybe the only answer to free us from an existence that suppresses us.