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origin of "deus ex machina"

Posted by Sean on March 15, 2001

In Reply to: origin of "deus ex machina" posted by Bob on January 27, 2000

: : : What does "deus ex machina" mean when used in a contemporary novel? Thanks for this. liz

: : DEUS EX MACHINA - literally: god from a machine; being or device invoked to solve a particular problem otherwise insoluble; (in classic drama) the intervention of the gods to solve a problem: the "god" was lowered on to the stage by means of a crane-like device. From "Le Mot Juste" edited by John Buchanon-Brown & others (Vintage Books).

: In Greek drama, it was literally a machine: convenient gods would be lowered into the action to sort things out and bring about a tidy ending. In modern usage, the term is applied to any oh-so-convenient instant solution to a problem. In this cynical age, we tend to cast a jaundiced eye on any tidy little happy ending, so the term has acquired a bit of "pull the other one" skepticism. Yeah, sure, the eyewitness shows up in the last reel, the cavalry comes over the ridge, ET flies the bicycle away from pursuers (why the hell didn't he use that power earlier?) and you're going to win the lottery to pay those credit card bills.