The Machinist Plot Symbolism Analysis

The Machinist is a film released in 2004 focusing on the life and psychological condition of Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale). Herein, the various symbols in The Machinist will be examined. Of course, this article is meant for those that have already seen the movie and subsequently contains spoilers.

The Machinist Plot Symbolism Analysis: Ivan As Shadow Archetype

In Jungian psychoanalytic theory, the shadow archetype is the aspect of the subconscious mind that represents our repressed negativity. While this would seem to suggest that the shadow is something negative, ultimately it can also serve to tell us the truth about situations and ourselves. The Machinist’s Ivan (John Sharian) is in essence the shadow archetype of Trevor, serving to get him to see the truth about himself. Ivan professes to have killed the young boy Nicholos (Matthew Romero), when in actually he is trying to get Trevor to see that it was in fact he that killed the boy.

The Machinist Plot Symbolism Analysis: Dostoevsky References

There are many potential references to works of novelist Dostoevsky, some clearer than others. The first of these occurs near the beginning of the film where Trevor is reading a copy of The Idiot, a novel by Dostoevsky. The second of these occurs on the horror train ride where a sign on one of the ride’s buildings reads Crime and Punishment, the title of another of Dostoevsky’s novels. The third reference is the character name Ivan, which is associated with Ivan Karamazov from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

More important than the references to the Dostoevsky novels are the reasons behind such references. When the sociologist Claude Levi-Strauss was developing structuralism as a way of analysing culture and specifically myth, he wrote that all aspects of a myth over time needed to be taken into account. In this way Freud’s use of the Oedipus myth ultimately alters the function of the Oedipus myth in society, so the myth changes. As such, the references to Dostoevsky are not included as a subtle nod by the writer but rather as a part of Trevor’s experience as he has read the novels. Guilt and those suffering from it is a very common theme in Dostoevsky’s novels, particularly in regards to Crime and Punishment, which has strong similarities to the situation Trevor is in. As a result, references that appear in his nightmarish delusions to the novel are in actually his subconscious mind comparing the novel to his life.

The Machinist Plot Symbolism Analysis: Route 666 Horror Ride

As the cause of Trevor’s condition is his repressed memory of having been the driver in a hit-and-run accident, the horror ride is a way for his brain to deliver the truth in a fictional manner. The first reference is in that the car of the ride and the car he hit the young boy with are very similar in appearance. Secondly, most of the evil in the ride is associated with car crashes. Of these car crashes, the most obvious is where the young boy pops out and the ride’s car crashes into him, mirroring Trevor’s hit-and-run.

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