1. Bongo Mongo
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    Bongo Mongo Member

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    What Is Deus Ex Machina?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Bongo Mongo, May 13, 2010.

    I have often heard this term, and looked it up, but I believe I don't fully understand what it means.

    Is it when the character is saved from death/danger by a magical god?
     
  2. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    From Wikipedia:
    "A Deus Ex Machina... is a plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new character, ability, or object.
    ...is generally undesirable in writing and often implies a lack of creativity on the part of the author. The reasons for this are that it does not pay due regard to the story's internal logic and is often so unlikely that it challenges suspension of disbelief, allowing the author to conclude the story with an unlikely, though perhaps more palatable, ending."

    Basically a cheap, unexpected solution that doesn't stem from the significant & relevant aspects of the plot, from what I know. A cop-out, more or less. Hope it helps.
     
  3. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    A total deus ex machina would be like in THE STAND by Stephen King. At the end of the story, the situation looks completely grim for the good guys, but then suddenly, out of nowhere, without the potential for this situation ever being conceivable let alone conceived, the "hand of God" (literally), swoops in and takes care of business.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I disagree about The Stand. The entire story is about the struggle between literal Good and Evil. Both forces are seen throughout the novel as they act through dreams and visions and the strengths and weaknesses of the people they recruit.

    The term comes from Greek theater, in which at times actors represnting the gods would literally be hoisted down from above the stage to effect a rescue of the doomed hero.

    In modern stories, deus ex machina would be exemplified by a rescue squad arriving in the nick of time, with no groundwork to explain why they would arrive at that particular moment. Or an earthquake collapses the roof on the bad guy just in time, as he is about to pull the trigger on the cornered hero and his damsel in distress.

    Anytime you resolve a situation with a fortuitously timed event that does not naturally and logically arise from the preceding storylines, you have a deus ex machina.

    But if the event does naturally arise from the story, it's not a deus ex machina. If the earthquake was induced because the hero triggered the self destruct in the villain's lair two minutes before, it's not deus ex machina (although it still may be absurd). If the rescue squad arrives in the nick of time because they followed one of the antagonists to the battle where the protagonists have their backs against the wall,it isn't deus ex machina.

    What makes it deus ex machina is the absence of any plausible justification for the resolution to occur at that particular moment.
     
  5. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cogito.

    I was just wondering.... the way that you always arrive on these threads just in the nick of time to supply the solutions to the myriad problems that are posed...

    Would you consider that to be deus ex machina? ;)
     
  6. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    Ahhh! Can I go now where on this forum without The Stand being spoiled for me!!

    I only recently realized the fuller meaning... it's out-dated really
     
  7. Anonym
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    I'm glad someone refined my pitiful explanation :p
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i agree about 'the stand'...

    but in ancient greek theater, the mechanical device carrying the 'god' character would be 'lowered' from above, since 'hoisted' would be bringing it back up... ;-)

    deus ex machina translates literally to 'god from a machine'...
     
  9. Feign
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    The Chrysalids has also been known to incorporate Deux Ex Machina, but this too is hotly debated.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You're right, Maia. Hoisted was the wrong word. :)
     
  11. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, my apologies for that!! I hadn't thought about the fact that I'd just given away the ending until this morning. I hope you do read the book; it's fantastic.

    Cogito: Thank you for clarifying the term for me. I'd always believed The Stand was a perfect example of it. *face palm*
     
  12. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    Oh no! don't worry, I didn't look at either of your posts, but I had to be pretty quick before my eyes could wander, I'm pretty close to the end anyways...
     

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