Helen is the protagonist of Machinal. At the play’s start, she is a secretary at an office. The play’s plot follows Helen through a series of significant life changes: a marriage, an affair, a murder, and a criminal indictment. Throughout the play, Helen is threatened from all sides by a number of troubling forces: the stresses of modern urban life, the psychological burden of being a woman in a male-dominated society, and feelings of isolation and abandonment. Helen remains admirably resilient in the face of these forces. Treadwell is effective in providing a context for Helen’s feelings of depression, desperation, and rage. Helen serves as a representation of all women in her society. Given the challenges all such women face, Helen’s turmoil is understandable and even warranted.
George H. Jones
George H. Jones is the vice president of the company Helen works for. Between the second and third episodes, George proposes to and marries Helen. George is depicted as insensitive, unattractive, and desperate. Helen agrees to marry him out of a desire for security but does not love him.
Richard Roe is the man Helen takes as her lover. Roe tells of having recently escaped from imprisonment in Mexico through violent means. Roe is handsome and suave in his presentation. Helen is infatuated with him despite his rough-around-the-edges character. Though he offers Helen affection, Roe reveals himself to be yet another danger to her.