Deus Ex Machina

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Can someone break this down for me? I’ve read explanations and I’m not grasping it. An example would be great. Cheers y’all

In: 1945

16 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Deus Ex Machina is a device used in story telling where a problem gets solved by something unexpected that hasn’t been mentioned before.

For example in War of the Worlds, although the story is about mankind fighting against the aliens (and losing). in the end it is disease, caused by earth bacteria, that kills them

Or, imagine a story about people fighting forest fires. A child is trapped at the top of a burning building and it looks like they cannot be saved. Then there is a sudden rainstorm which solves the problem and everything else becomes irrelevant.

In the above examples it is a natural force that is deus ex machina. But it needn’t be. For example a poor person needs an operation and the whole story is about how her friends rally round trying to raise the money. At the end it seems they haven’t raised enough and it looks like all is lost. Then someone notices the signature on the painting hanging in her room and it turns out to be a Picasso worth millions. Here, the painting is deus ex machina.

Deus ex machina is often seen as a “cheat”. As though the author couldn’t find a way of resolving the problems he has created and so brings in something unexpected at the end. To be deus ex machina it is important that the solution is unexpected and there is no hint that it might happen earlier in the story. In the above examples, if the possibility of rain had been mentioned or if someone had already commented on the picture then it it wouldnt qualify.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Deus ex machina is when a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly or abruptly solved by an unexpected and unlikely thing that happened.

it’s usually when some new event, character, ability, or object solves a problem that seems impossible in a sudden, unexpected way.

it’s a *solution* to a *problem*, it’s not a plot twist or giving the reader/viewer a new angle to look at the story

basically whenever the story introduces a problem that seems impossible and solves it with similarly impossible solution.

[this comic from the TV Trope page put it pretty well](https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/deus_ex_machina_5.png)

Anonymous 0 Comments

Translates to “god out of a machine”

Originially, for theater plays, it described a contraption that was used to display a divine appearance. Picture a golden / illuminated angel-like figure appearing above the stage to act as “god”, by mechanic means instead of a dressed up actor.

Nowadays, the term describes something appearing seemingly out of nowhere as a solution to a problem or conflict. Imagine sitting on a public toilet, you’re all out of toilet paper, and some just rolls into your stall with no apparent explanation. Or you have horrible headaches / nausea / backpain and it just suddenly vanishes.

Anonymous 0 Comments

it’s like if Picard is solo against two Romulan warbirds but suddenly four Klingon birds-of-prey uncloak to assist

Anonymous 0 Comments

While use of the phrase has a figurative meaning nowadays, it should be noted that its origins are exactly what it says.

Ancient greek theater tragedies had literally a machine/device that carried an actor depicting a god (Zeus for example) at the theatrical stage and then that character (being a god) gave a solution/resolution to the conflict happening in the theatric plot.

So this kind of interference has now a figurative meaning that could be explained as “something unexpectedly giving a solution to a seemingly unsolvable problem” with emphasis on unexpectedly and unsolvable.

So being held hostage at gunpoint and a police sniper killing the hostage taker isn’t deus ex machina as police is trained to deal with situations like this and expected to act accordingly. But being held hostage at gunpoint and a thunder striking and incapacitating the hostage taker is deus ex machina as it was unexpected and non-relevant to the plot until that point.

Anonymous 0 Comments

“And our hero was cornered with no hope of escape! If only he had a sword that was made of the magical iron from the Black Mountain across the sea with the Ruby of the Ages embedded into its pommel! …and suddenly, through a portal from a different dimension flew a sword made of the magical iron from the Black Mountain across the sea with the Ruby of the Ages embedded into its pommel. Our hero caught it with one hand and slew his enemies and saved the day!”

A somewhat lazy storytelling technique where something out of the blue happens that saves the day. If there was a complex setup to WHY the sword suddenly appeared from another dimension, then it would be fine and not a deus ex machina.

Anonymous 0 Comments

In the purest form, a deus ex machina is an event or character who appears and resolves the conflict of the story without any prior notice or foreshadowing. It is often used more generally to apply to any conflict rather than just the main conflict.

So if you have a story about a character who is in need of money, and at the end the character receives enough money from a source never mentioned previously, then that would be a deus ex machina.

However if the story had a second viewpoint character who had spent the whole time trying to find the first character in order to give them the money, that wouldn’t be a deus ex machina because the reader would have prior notice of how the story might be resolved.

On the other hand if one of those characters was being mugged in an alley and a new character shows up and saves them, that isn’t strictly speaking a deus ex machina because the main conflict of the story wasn’t resolved. Also if something unexpected helps the antagonists or hinders the protagonists, that also isn’t a deus ex machina because it doesn’t resolve the main conflict (in fact it makes the conflict worse). Both of these can still be unsatisfying for the reader if done badly.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Good explanations around, but one literal example is from the movie Dodgeball. At the end, despite everything going well, the heros still lose since the gym was sold, but at the last second, a treasure chest appears (and literally says Deus Ex) because the hero bet the money on them winning and they got so much money they win at the end. It came out of nowhere and was a magical perfect answer to the problem.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It roughly translates to “God of the machine.”

It’s basically a weak method of storytelling in which the solution to the conflict at hand comes from a source outside the characters and is often contrived, previously not mentioned or hinted at, and/or has unbelievably convenient timing.

It’s better used in a comedy as a source of irony than in a drama.

Anonymous 0 Comments

To explain the origin of the expression: In Greek plays occasionally the conflict would be suddenly solved by them wheeling in a god from off stage who would fix everything.

God in the machine.

Another example is in adaptation where the bad guy is killed suddenly by a gator that wasn’t a part of the story until that point