본문 바로가기
  • Home

Reading The Adding Machine: Rice’s Essay on Man in the Machine Age

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2008, 21(3), pp.97-117
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Yeong-Yoon Seo 1

1한성대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The Adding Machine is a play with the 1920s' American society as its setting. For Americans the period can be called the machine age because at that time machines began to be everywhere and have an important effect upon their perceptions of both the self and the world. Rice explores the bad effects of mechanization and industrialism upon the middle-class American citizens in the machine age through this play. Especially, in scenes from 3 to 5 Rice satirizes the conformity, chauvinism, racism, narrow puritanism of the middle-class American through the Zeros, their equally valueless friends, from the Ones to the Sixes, and dehumanized onlookers, including their guide. According to Rice, The Adding Machine is the case history of one of the slave souls in a mechanized society. Despite the author's denial, the play illuminates the dehumanizing impact of American material industrialism in the expressionistic manner. Rice, however, does not use the expressionism as a mere technical experiment. Using it, Rice takes the audiences inside Zero, a white collar worker, and lets them experience his dehumanization or degradation in the machine age. The Adding Machine is Rice's pessimistic essay on man in the machine age. Nameless Zero is Rice's modern American everyman who has served as a book-keeper for 25 years without missing a day. Expecting to be gotten a raise, he is instead fired and replaced by an adding machine for the sake of efficiency and economy. In a chaos Zero kills his boss and is executed. After death Zero finds himself in the Elysian Fields but he is too confused to accept the inversion of hell and heaven. He escapes from the pleasant place and the happy reunion with recently suicided Daisy to a kind of human soul repair shop. In that place Zero himself becomes a part of an adding machine and his soul is readjusted to work on an ultra super adding machine. Finally Zero returns to earth in order to repeat his dreadful life under the illusory hope. Through this ending Rice doesn't suggest any salvation for the modern everyman such as worthless Zero both in this world and the next.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.