Helen Jones

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

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.

List of Characters

(Drama for Students)

Adding Clerk

Adding Clerk is an unnamed male character who, in the first episode, helps emphasize and embellish the noises of the office with his audible number counting and the sound of his adding machine. Sound and noise is an important element in Treadwell’s play, creating background and atmosphere.


In episode four Helen gives birth to her firstborn. The doctor comes into the room and the nurse explains that Helen does not want her baby and appears weak because she gags when her husband enters. The doctor insists that Helen breastfeed; she refuses and asks to be left alone. The doctor is confused and perturbed by her behavior.

Filing Clerk

Filing Clerk is an unnamed, younger male character who, in the first episode, helps emphasize and embellish the noises of the office with his audible enunciation of letters as he files.

First Reporter

In episode eight, Helen is in the courtroom on trial for the murder of her husband, George H. Jones. The First Reporter is one of the many members of the press in the crowded courtroom. As he takes notes, First Reporter reads them aloud. His comments are positive regarding Helen, her behavior, movements, character and emotions. First Reporter’s comments are the polar opposite of Second Reporter’s anti-Helen commentary, exemplifying the subjectivity of the media.

Helen’s Mother

Helen’s mother acts a guidebook for the society that Helen wishes to escape. Helen’s mother constantly reminds her daughter that it is more important to get married before she is too old and that it is most important to marry a man that can provide financial stability. The old woman explains that love will never pay the bills, clothe you, or put food on the table. She tells Helen that love is not real. Life is real, things like clothes, food, a bed to sleep in, etc., and that the rest is in your head. She pressures Helen to forget about things like love, and marry George because he has money, is a decent man, and can care for both Helen and her mother. Helen’s mother is the voice that is the opposition to Helen’s feelings. Helen’s mother is convincing and powerful. It could be reasoned that Helen’s mother’s pressure is the catalyst that forces Helen into marriage, motherhood, and, eventually, murder.

George H. Jones

George H. Jones is the owner of George H. Jones Company. He employs the Adding Clerk, Filing Clerk, Stenographer, Telephone Girl and Helen Jones. He is a fat, slovenly man, but he is harmless. His hands are large and flabby; they disgust Helen. George is more dedicated to work than anything else and it shows because his business is successful. Although George’s company is successful, he has never been married. He takes a special interest in Helen and decides to ask his office worker to take his hand in marriage. Reluctantly, Helen accepts, mostly because of the prodding of her mother. Helen becomes Mrs. Jones for the sake of monetary stability. She feels no love for George and, in fact, is repulsed by everything about the man. George is patient and, in a way, loving towards his new bride. He is not forceful with his sexual advances and he is eager to support both Helen and her mother. George plans to give both women a nice, comfortable life, he is willing to be faithful and compassionate, and he yearns to start a family. In many ways, George has the potential to be a good, loving husband. Soon after their marriage, Helen gives birth to their firstborn. George is excited to be a father and support his family. He is a good provider, but Helen constantly feels trapped by her husband, child, mother and life. Eventually, Helen murders George to free herself from her constraints. Ironically, she evens see murder as a better option than divorce for George because Helen does not want to hurt him by ending their marriage. This belief is both sad and insane. Helen believes divorce would do more damage to George than ending his life.

Helen Jones

Helen Jones is frequently referred to as “Young Woman” throughout the play. In the beginning, Helen is an employee of the George H. Jones Company. Soon she finds herself married to George...

(The entire section is 1768 words.)