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Deus ex machina

Deus ex machina refers to a resolution to a story which does not pay due regard to the story's internal logic and is so unlikely it challenges suspension of disbelief, and presumably allows the author to end it in the way he or she wanted.

A few examples are the films The Joyless Street and Pandora's Box by G.W. Pabst. In Pandora's Box, the movie is ended when for no apparent reason the main character is murdered by Jack the Ripper. Stephen King's novel The Stand would arguably be another example: a minor character who has gone insane returns with a nuclear bomb, which is set off by an electric charge (the hand of God?), annihilating Las Vegas. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is another example; however, the ending — in which the movie comes to a sudden halt when the entire cast is arrested — is intentionally preposterous in this case.

The term is Latin for "god from the machine" and originated with Greek and Roman theater, when stage machinery would lower a god or gods into a play to resolve a hopeless situation. The Greek tragedian Euripides was noted for using this plot device.

See also plot, theater



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