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Deus Ex Machina Meaning and Examples in Narrative

You are reading the last chapters of the novel.

You are in suspense because the protagonist is in a dead-end, with no possibility of escape. The enemy has an ax in his hand and is about to hit him. Then suddenly, the enemy falls to the ground because an alien appears and hits him with a laser beam.

You close the book since the story is not about aliens, and you haven’t seen any aliens up to that point. If you could, you’d throw the book out the window.

The alien in question has the narrative function of Deus Ex Machina.

Deus Ex Machina meaning

We often read this particular term, but do you know Deus Ex Machina meaning? It is an ancient Latin expression, which literally means “god from the machine”.

This term derives from the Greek tragedy. It concerned when a character came on the scene at the end of the narration to solve a situation that initially seemed very difficult to overcome or even without a solution.

This unexpected character seemed a God able to suddenly solve the problem, who came onto the stage by a crane (called in Greek “mechané”). From here, the expression Deus Ex Machina.


What is Deus Ex Machina?

Deus Ex Machina is a Latin phrase that translates to “god from the machine” in English. It refers to a plot device or narrative technique where an unexpected, often contrived, solution to a problem is introduced in a story.

Is it better to use or avoid the Deus Ex Machina narrative technique?

The audience does not love this technique so much. Frequently people find it frustrating to not understand why a particular solution is adopted to a situation.

Actually, it seems to be a real scam against the reader. Solving a situation with a Deus Ex Machina means breaking the story’s credibility. It is like declaring that the fears about the protagonist’s fate do not matter because an external intervention can solve everything.

At this point, readers may ask themselves: what is the real point of telling the story?

Besides this, the Deus Ex Machina narrative technique diminishes the role of the protagonist and, often, of their allies. They are not actively intervening and saving the day but passively witnessing an external resolution.

Their journey, struggle, and experience are useless because they are not the ones who will define events. Instead, the protagonist should shine in the moments of greatest difficulty.

Examples of Deus Ex Machina

Here are some examples that highlight instances where the Deus Ex Machina device is employed to bring about resolutions that might otherwise seem improbable or difficult to achieve within the narrative context.

In “The Lord of the Rings,” the sudden arrival of Rohan’s army during the Battle of Helm’s Deep serves as a notable instance.

We can find another example of Deus Ex Machina In H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds,” the defeat of Martian invaders by Earth’s microbes represents another use of this narrative tool.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit“. This Deus Ex Machina example features a moment where giant eagles unexpectedly appear during the Battle of the Five Armies, providing a crucial turn of events.

Furthermore, in “The Great Gatsby,” Nick Carraway’s unforeseen involvement plays a significant role in the tragic resolution of the plot.

Use bibisco’s novel writing software to create your narration

Crafting a compelling narrative without relying on a Deus Ex Machina can be challenging, and bibisco novel writing software is designed to assist writers in avoiding this narrative pitfall.

With its emphasis on thoughtful planning and character development, bibisco encourages writers to establish a solid foundation for their stories.

deus ex machina meaning and examples | bibisco's architecture of the novel & narrative strands
bibisco’s architecture of the novel & narrative strands

By utilizing features like novel architecture design, writers can create well-structured narratives that avoid the need for abrupt and improbable interventions.

bibisco promotes a more organic and satisfying resolution by empowering writers to build narratives that unfold naturally, keeping readers engaged and invested from start to finish.


The narrative technique Deus Ex Machina does not necessarily have to be a real god. It could be a man or an object. It could also be a strange case that happens to fix a narrative knot that cannot be unraveled in any other way.

Even if you’ve seen Deus Ex Machina in movies or novels, it remains an improbable expedient. You have to avoid using this narrative technique. Instead, you must seek a resolution consistent with the plot and consequential to the narration.

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