Young Woman or Helen Jones, as Sophie Treadwell names her in Machinal, is rightly named so as any woman, anywhere, can and may just happen to find themselves in a similar situation as Mrs. Jones. A young woman, who is deeply dissatisfied with the everyday life that many women lead, including her mother, Mrs. Jones attempts to deviate from society’s prescribed way of living for the female (honeymoon, marriage, bearing a child, etc.). However, what ends up happening instead is that she falls right into the trap that she so vehemently opposes. Nevertheless, as I assume that Treadwell was attempting to portray the life that a wide array of women lead, the play in turn serves as a way to depict how these same women may feel or are treated in a system that seems to completely disregard them. This disregard for female sentiments, especially the feelings of Helen, and the overarching theme of patriarchy is replete in the play. When Helen tells her mother she doesn’t want to eat the potato in episode two, her mother says, “That’s no reason! Here. Take one.” If she says she doesn’t want the potato, why can’t her request be honoured? Why is that her mother continues to force the potato on her almost midway in their conversation? Of course though, the wants and needs of Helen or any other female in society at the time didn’t matter much. How could I forget?! That must have been the general consensus among all male characters in the play as they all behave on the same premise: the doctor (in episode four, when Helen is in the hospital post-labour, the Nurse attempts to dissuade the doctor from prescribing solids for Helen because she is unable to swallow them, the doctor ignores the Nurse completely and continues along the path he wants to follow – “Give her solids.” End of story) and her lover (he confesses in an affidavit in episode eight of their affair, without considering how Helen would feel about her sexual encounter being shared with the public.) Someone may justify their behaviour; their response:”Because women don’t have no rights, das why. “
Treadwell’s play, therefore, takes an interesting look at the inner life of one woman that many other women could probably relate to well enough, and critiques how often times society influences greatly how these women behave and consequently end up. I believe the play makes a reasonable argument and forces human beings in general to consider the mechanical expectations they often place on women.