Expressionism, is an artistic style that originated in Germany at the end of the 1 9th century in which the artist aims to depict subjective perspective of the character through distortion and exaggeration of reality. Expressionist plays often amplify the inner awakening and suffering of the main character. The expressionist dramas have specificity in: mood atmo sphere, setting, plot, structure, characters, dialogue, movement, acting style.
In this reading re sponse paper, I will define few speciflc elements of expressionistic drama that I listed above and fi nd examples from the play that depict typical traits of expressionism. Expressionism emerged in Europe just before 20th century, it reach its peak f rom 1910 until 1925 incited by overwhelming social and political disorder caused by Firs t World War. The ugliness and devastation Of the war made expressionist writers separate from other dramatists who otherwise cherished the industrial growth. In the beginning of the 20th c entury, machines became common things.
Mechanization of work force and their correlation wi th war, created a feeling of great fear that machines would destroy humanity. Wherefore Expre ssionist dramatists endeavour to highlight the moral crisis of the collective. They did it by employi ng a number of stylistic tools to emphasize universality in human emotions for instance emph asized movement or dialogue. Expressionists consider that primary human necessities and exp ressions unify people of all classes. In (meaning mechanical in French) none Of the characters has a given name. Most of the characters are nameless or they are characterized by their occupa ion.
Therefore we have character names such as Adding Clerk, Filing Clerk, Doctor, Priest Judge and etc. This shows us the idea of Young Woman’s struggle that any other woman can relat e too. Throughout the play, she is confronted by reality faded by convention. The play is seen thr ough her perspective where she battles to gain sophistication despite of commercial in dustrialization in the maledominated society. Other characteristic of the expressionist play is the mood of the play. Mood is defined as the atmosphere that is build up in the scene. The overall atmosphere in presented as tifling and mechanical.
At the very beginning of the play we notice the the at mosphere is exactly stifling and mechanical. Interactions among the characters in the first scene seem to be rhythmical, energetic and robotic. With a rapid dialogue and robotic moveme nts of characters, scene gains a dream like state. Regarding plot and structure of the play we can see that the play is disjointed and broken into episodes. We have 9 episodes in machinal. Episodes such as To Business, At Home or Honeymoon and etc Each of these episodes makes point of it’s own and they are not causally inked as it is a case in realistic and naturalistic plays.
For example In the first episode the Young Woman is at her workplace dealing with everyday routine and from there we j ump into the second episode where she is with her mother and there is a slight change in t he written dialog. And in the third episode, all of a sudden she already got married and she is o n her honeymoon. In terms of dialogue we can notice that dialogs and monologues that characteriz e expressionism are present in the text. Especially in the first episode. “ADDING CLERK She ain’t got a sweetie.
TELEPHONE GIRL Spring 1876? Hello Spring 1876. Spring! Wrong number! ” ( 3 From the above we can see a distinct lack of interpersonal communication be tween characters. Dialog between the characters is consisted with rapid and breathless speech. When we talk about acting style in expressionistic play we have appearance of overacting. did not see the production of the play so I could not judge the ac ting however based on the written text. The author gives a plenty of room for overacting an y of the characters in any of the scenes. We also have expressing of tormented emotions.
The be st example for that is the last episode when the Young Woman expresses her repressed thoughts and feelings about her life and is followed by ofa Negro spiritual song offstage. In a conclusion, from all mentioned above We can established that I defined expressionistic style and how it is present in the Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal. I defined some of the characteristics of the expressionistic drama such as: mood, acting style ch aracters, plot and structure of the play and gave some examples from the text and to prove my statement that Machinal is an expressionistic piece.