Deus ex machina

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Latin for “god out of the machine” or "god from the machine" depending on what refrences you use. The term originated in Greek theaters and was eventually translated into Latin. It came about when a mechane (a crane) would lower a person or persons playing the role of a god or gods to find a solution to a hopeless situation. This formed the phrase “god from the crane” and eventually crane was changed to machine. Lass, Kiremidjian, and Goldstein state that, "Now the term has come to mean any rescuing agency introduced by the author to bring about a desired conclustion, usually without regard to the logic of character or situations" (70).


  • In J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Frodo and Sam (the ringbearers) are trapped on Mount Doom during the eruption. Eagles fly from a distance and proceed to rescue them.
  • Edgar Allan Poe's story, The Pit and the Pendulum, the narrator has just fallen over the edge of the deep pit when he reaches up and grabs the arm of the French general who has led the army to capture the fort where the narrator has been imprisoned.

Literary Terms

Works Cited

  • Cuddon, J.A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Themes and Literary Theory. 4th ed. 1999.
  • Lass, Abraham H., David Kiremidjian, and Ruth M. Goldstein. The Dictionary of Classical, Biblical, & Literary Allusions. 1991.