Machinal

by

Sophie Treadwell

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Helen Jones Character Analysis

A young woman who initially lives with her mother and works for a wealthy businessman named George H. Jones. Helen is characterized as “soft” and “tender,” a person unfit for the hard “mechanical” world she lives in. Though she’s primarily bothered by the impersonal and loveless manners of the people around her, she’s also made uncomfortable by the actual machinery that surrounds her in daily life. Because of this, she acts skittishly, even getting off the subway one morning because she feels as if she’s suffocating. When Mr. Jones proposes to her, she’s deeply hesitant to accept, complaining to her mother that she doesn’t love him. Nevertheless, she eventually relents and listens to her mother and coworkers’ advice to marry George because he’s rich and because refusing his proposal would likely mean losing her job. Once married to George, Helen rarely speaks up for herself, instead repressing her emotions in order to placate her ignorant husband. After having a baby, though, she begins to secretly rebel against her loveless marriage by starting an affair with a man named Mr. Roe, who tells her that he once killed several Mexican bandits with a bottle filled with stones. Taking this to heart, Helen murders George one night with the same rudimentary weapon, an action that leads to her execution in the electric chair.

Helen Jones Quotes in Machinal

The Machinal quotes below are all either spoken by Helen Jones or refer to Helen Jones. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Nick Hern Books edition of Machinal published in 2014.
Episode 1: To Business Quotes

Before the curtain
Sounds of machines going. They continue throughout the scene, and accompany the YOUNG WOMAN’s thoughts after the scene is blacked out.

At the rise of the curtain
All machines are disclosed, and all the characters with the exception of the YOUNG WOMAN.

Of these characters, the YOUNG WOMAN, going any day to any business. Ordinary. The confusion of her own inner thoughts, emotions, desires, dreams cuts her off from any actual adjustment to the routine of work. She gets through this routine with a very small surface of her consciousness. She is not homely and she is not pretty. She is preoccupied with herself—with her person. She has well kept hands, and a trick of constantly arranging her hair over her ears.

Related Characters: Helen Jones
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

Marry me—wants to marry me—George H. Jones—George H. Jones and Company—Mrs. George H. Jones—Mrs. George H. Jones. Dear Madame—marry—do you take this man to be your wedded husband—I do—to love honor and to love—kisses—no—I can’t—George H. Jones—How would you like to marry me—What do you say—Why Mr. Jones I—let me look at your little hands—you have such pretty little hands—let me hold your pretty little hands—George H. Jones—Fat hands—flabby hands—don’t touch me—please—fat hands are never weary—[…]—don’t touch me—please—no—can’t—must—somebody—something—no rest—must rest—no rest—must rest—no rest—late today—yesterday—before—late—subway—air—pressing—bodies pressing—bodies—trembling—air—stop—air—late—job—no job—fired—late—alarm clock—alarm clock—alarm clock—hurry—job—ma—nag—nag—nag—ma—hurry—job—no job—no money—installments due—no money—[…]—money—no work—no worry—free!—rest—sleep till nine—sleep till ten—sleep till noon—now you take a good rest this morning—don’t get up till you want to—thank you—oh thank you—oh don’t!—please don’t touch me—I want to rest—no rest—earn—got to earn—married—earn—no—yes—earn—all girls—most girls—ma—pa—ma—all women—most women—I can’t—must—maybe—must—somebody—something—ma—pa—ma—can I, ma? Tell me, ma—something—somebody.

Related Characters: Helen Jones (speaker), George H. Jones, Helen’s Mother
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:
Episode 2: At Home Quotes

YOUNG WOMAN. Tell me—(Words suddenly pouring out.) Your skin oughtn’t to curl—ought it—when he just comes near you—ought it? That’s wrong, ain’t it? You don’t get over that, do you—ever, do you or do you? How is it, Ma—do you?

MOTHER. Do you what?

YOUNG WOMAN. Do you get used to, it—so after a while it doesn’t matter? Or don’t you? Does it always matter? You ought to be in love, oughtn’t you, Ma? You must be in love, mustn’t you, Ma? That changes everything, doesn’t it—or does it? Maybe if you just like a person it’s all right—is it? When he puts a hand on me, my blood turns cold. But your blood oughtn’t to run cold, ought it? His hands are—his hands are fat, Ma—don’t you see—his hands are fat—and they sort of press—and they’re fat—don’t you see?—Don’t you see?

MOTHER (stares at her bewildered). See what?

YOUNG WOMAN (rushing on). I’ve always thought I’d find somebody—somebody young—and—and attractive—with wavy hair—wavy hair—I always think of children with curls—little curls all over their head—somebody young—and attractive—that I’d like—that I’d love—But I haven’t found anybody like that yet—I haven’t found anybody—I’ve hardly known anybody—you’d never let me go with anybody and—

MOTHER. Are you throwing it up to me that—

YOUNG WOMAN. No—let me finish, Ma! No—let me finish! I just mean I’ve never found anybody—anybody—nobody’s ever asked me—till now—he’s the only man that’s ever asked me—And I suppose I got to marry somebody—all girls do—

MOTHER. Nonsense.

YOUNG WOMAN. But, I can’t go on like this, Ma—I don’t know why—but I can’t—it’s like I’m all tight inside—sometimes I feel like I’m stifling!—You don’t know—stifling. (Walks up and down.) I can’t go on like this much longer—going to work—coming home—going to work—coming home—I can’t—Sometimes in the subway I think I’m going to die—sometimes even in the office if something don’t happen—I got to do something—I don’t know—it’s like I’m all tight inside.

Related Characters: Helen Jones (speaker), Helen’s Mother (speaker), George H. Jones
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:
Episode 3: Honeymoon Quotes

HUSBAND. […] Say did I tell you the one about—

YOUNG WOMAN. Yes! Yes!

HUSBAND (with dignity). How do you know which one I meant?

YOUNG WOMAN. You told me them all!

HUSBAND (pulling her back to his knee). No, I didn’t! Not by a jugful! I got a lot of ’em up my sleeve yet—that’s part of what I owe my success to—my ability to spring a good story—You know—you got to learn to relax, little girl—haven’t you?

YOUNG WOMAN. Yes.

HUSBAND. That’s one of the biggest things to learn in life. That’s part of what I owe my success to. Now you go and get those heavy things off—and relax.

Related Characters: Helen Jones (speaker), George H. Jones (speaker)
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:
Episode 4: Maternal Quotes

Let me alone—let me alone—let me alone—I’ve submitted to enough—I won’t submit to any more—crawl off—crawl off in the dark—Vixen crawled under the bed—way back in the corner under the bed—they were all drowned—puppies don’t go to heaven—heaven—golden stairs—long stairs—long—too long—long golden stairs—climb those golden stairs…—no matter—nothing matters—dead—stairs—long stairs—all the dead going up—going up—to be in heaven—heaven—golden stairs—all the children coming down—coming down to be born—dead going up—children coming down—[…]—St. Peter—St. Peter at the gate—you can’t come in—no matter—it doesn’t matter—I’ll rest—I’ll lie down—down—all written down—down in a big book—no matter—it doesn’t matter—I’ll lie down—[…]—a girl—aren’t you glad it’s a girl—a little girl—with no hair—none—little curls all over his head—a little bald girl—curls—curls all over his head—what kind of hair had God? No matter—it doesn’t matter—everybody loves God—they’ve got to—got to—got to love God—God is love—even if he’s bad they got to love him—even if he’s got fat hands—fat hands—no no—he wouldn’t be God—His hands make you well—He lays on his hands—well—and happy—no matter—doesn’t matter—far—too far—tired—too tired Vixen crawled off under bed—eight—there were eight—a woman crawled off under the bed—[…]—I’ll not submit any more—I’ll not submit—I’ll not submit.

Related Characters: Helen Jones (speaker), George H. Jones
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
Episode 6: Intimate Quotes

She comes into the light. She wears a white chemise that might be the tunic of a dancer, and as she comes into the light she fastens about her waist a little skirt. She really wears almost exactly the clothes that women wear now, but the finesse of their cut, and the grace and ease with which she puts them on, must turn this episode of her dressing into a personification, an idealization of a woman clothing herself. All her gestures must be unconscious, innocent, relaxed, sure and full of natural grace. As she sits facing the window pulling on a stocking.

Related Characters: Helen Jones, Mr. Roe
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
Episode 7: Domestic Quotes

YOUNG WOMAN (reading). Sale of jewels and precious stones.

YOUNG WOMAN puts her hand to throat.

HUSBAND. What’s the matter?

YOUNG WOMAN. I feel as though I were drowning.

HUSBAND. Drowning?

YOUNG WOMAN. With stones around my neck.

HUSBAND. You just imagine that.

YOUNG WOMAN. Stifling.

HUSBAND. You don’t breathe deep enough—breathe now—look at me. (He breathes.) Breath is life. Life is breath.

YOUNG WOMAN (suddenly). And what is death?

HUSBAND (smartly). Just—no breath!

YOUNG WOMAN (to herself). Just no breath.

Related Characters: Helen Jones (speaker), George H. Jones (speaker)
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:
Episode 9: A Machine Quotes

The BARBERS take her by the arms.

YOUNG WOMAN. No! No! Don’t touch me—touch me!

They take her and put her down in the chair, cut a patch from her hair.

I will not be submitted—this indignity! No! I will not be submitted!—Leave me alone! Oh my God am I never to be let alone! Always to have to submit—to submit! No more—not now—I’m going to die—I won’t submit! Not now!

BARBER (finishing cutting a patch from her hair). You’ll submit, my lady. Right to the end, you’ll submit! There, and a neat job too.

Related Characters: Helen Jones (speaker), The Barbers (speaker), The Priest
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Machinal LitChart as a printable PDF.
Machinal PDF

Helen Jones Character Timeline in Machinal

The timeline below shows where the character Helen Jones appears in Machinal. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Episode 1: To Business
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
The Mechanical World Theme Icon
Fragmentation and Expressionism Theme Icon
...and the telephone girl answers phones, the workers intermittently talk about one of their colleagues, Helen, a young woman who’s late yet again. When the boss, George H. Jones, calls, he... (full context)
The Mechanical World Theme Icon
Mr. Jones arrives and asks after Helen again, but the telephone girl informs him that she still hasn’t come in. “I just... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
The Mechanical World Theme Icon
The telephone girl tells Helen that Mr. Jones wants her, saying, “He’s bellowing for you!” When Helen goes into George’s... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Just as Helen’s coworkers start asking her about Mr. Jones’s proposal, he enters and goes to her desk,... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
The Mechanical World Theme Icon
Fragmentation and Expressionism Theme Icon
Amid the office chaos—the sounds of typewriters and telephones and the murmurs of her colleagues—Helen thinks aloud to herself, considering Mr. Jones’s proposal while also allowing her mind to wander,... (full context)
Episode 2: At Home
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
When the lights shine once more on the stage, Helen sits at a kitchen table with her mother while the sounds of apartment buzzers, radios,... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
Fragmentation and Expressionism Theme Icon
“How soon you going to marry him?” Helen’s mother asks, but Helen declares that she has no plans to accept George’s proposal. To... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
The Mechanical World Theme Icon
Fragmentation and Expressionism Theme Icon
Returning to their conversation, Helen’s mother says that George must be a “decent man” because he’s a vice-president. Helen argues... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Relentless, Helen’s mother says, “You’re crazy!” again, and Helen admits this is perhaps true. She then verbally... (full context)
Episode 3: Honeymoon
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
Faint jazz plays as the lights turn on for Episode Three, showing George and Helen entering a hotel room on their honeymoon. George is in high spirits, urging Helen to... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
The Mechanical World Theme Icon
George takes Helen in his lap and kisses her neck while placing his hand on her knee. “Say—stay... (full context)
Episode 4: Maternal
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
The sound of riveting comes through an open window of Helen’s hospital room, where she lies in recovery after having given birth. A nurse enters and... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
George enters with flowers and starts giving Helen a pep-talk, saying, “I know all you’ve been through,” to which she shakes her head.... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
In response to George’s encouragements, Helen starts choking and pointing to the door. “She’s got that gagging again—like she had the... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
Fragmentation and Expressionism Theme Icon
When the two doctors and the nurse leave, Helen finally speaks. Her words are dissociative and strange, including the following fragmented phrases: “Let me... (full context)
Episode 5: Prohibited
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
...Mr. Smith and Mr. Roe, and the audience recognizes them as the telephone girl and Helen. Apparently, Mr. Smith has been having an affair with the telephone girl, who introduces Helen... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
...Haven’t you?” This convinces the woman, and they leave to go make arrangements. Back at Helen’s table, Mr. Roe keeps talking about his escape from the Mexican bandits. At one point... (full context)
Episode 6: Intimate
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
...apartment, the sound of a hand organ in the streets drifts through an open window. Helen and Mr. Roe lounge together and speak intimately. Helen’s voice is calm as she talks... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
The Mechanical World Theme Icon
“I’ll never get—below the Rio Grande—I’ll never get out of here,” Helen says. “Quien sabe,” Roe replies, and Helen’s mood lifts. Mr. Roe then tells her that... (full context)
Episode 7: Domestic
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
Fragmentation and Expressionism Theme Icon
When the lights turn on for Episode Seven, Helen and George sit silently in their home reading newspapers. When they see headlines that interest... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
The Mechanical World Theme Icon
...up, he says, “They signed!—aren’t you interested? Aren’t you going to ask me?” Indulging him, Helen asks him a series of questions that give him the opportunity to deliver a cliché—“Did... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
The Mechanical World Theme Icon
Fragmentation and Expressionism Theme Icon
...gets off the phone, another call comes in, and he repeats himself yet again. Meanwhile, Helen distractedly reads the newspaper, clearly restless and uncomfortable about something. “My, you’re nervous tonight,” George... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
Helen gets up and says she’s going to bed, but George reminds her that it’s still... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Fragmentation and Expressionism Theme Icon
...Roe’s voice again. As these words swirl along with the music of the hand organ, Helen leaps to her feet, crying “Oh! Oh!,” and the stage goes dark. “Stones—stones—stones,” the voices... (full context)
Episode 8: The Law
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
The Mechanical World Theme Icon
...brightens on a courtroom where a judge finishes a case and turns his attention to Helen and her attorney, the Lawyer for Defense. As Helen takes the stand, two reporters write... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
Continuing with his questions, the Lawyer for Defense eventually asks Helen if she killed George. She insists that she did not, telling him that on the... (full context)
Communication Theme Icon
Fragmentation and Expressionism Theme Icon
At this point, Helen explains, the two men fled the room. Quickly, she tried to stop the bleeding from... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
The Lawyer for Prosecution begins by confirming that Helen did nothing when she saw the two intruders appear over George’s side of the bed.... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
The Lawyer for Prosecution hounds Helen with questions, asking why she didn’t call a doctor. Producing a broken bottleneck, he asks... (full context)
Fragmentation and Expressionism Theme Icon
Helen refutes the notion that she started caring about her hands again last spring, saying she... (full context)
Fragmentation and Expressionism Theme Icon
...filled with small stones and some water and a lily,” the Lawyer for Prosecution asks Helen. He then tells a story about Helen taking home this lily and caring for it... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
...Lawyer for Prosecution reads it aloud. In the affidavit, Mr. Roe upholds that he met Helen in a speakeasy a year before George’s death and that she visited his apartment almost... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
The Mechanical World Theme Icon
Suddenly, Helen breaks into a yell, pleading, “No! No!” When the Lawyer for Prosecution asks her what’s... (full context)
Episode 9: A Machine
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
Fragmentation and Expressionism Theme Icon
...the swell of telegraph machines and reporters’ voices, the lights come on for Episode Nine. Helen is behind bars in a prison, a priest sitting next to her. As he reads... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
Fragmentation and Expressionism Theme Icon
“No!” Helen screams as the barbers approach. Trying to calm her down, the priest says, “Daughter, you’re... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
The Mechanical World Theme Icon
Turning to the priest, Helen asks why she was born, but he only quotes scripture in response. She asks if... (full context)
Marriage and Gender Inequality Theme Icon
Communication Theme Icon
The Mechanical World Theme Icon
Fragmentation and Expressionism Theme Icon
The priest launches into a long prayer. Helen’s mother appears, but Helen calls her a stranger who has “never known” her. Just as... (full context)