The Machine which was originally published in 1912 in the collection Plays of Protest. Although it contains some of the same characters who appeared in his novels The Metropolis and The Moneychangers, it is intended to be a stand-alone piece and requires no prior knowledge of those previous books. The play exposes the system of patronage and graft established by the Tammany Hall organization, a corrupt political machine which controlled New York politics through the early 20th century. Three socialist activists intend to educate a wealthy young woman who has expressed a curiosity toward their political views. This socialite and philanthropist, Laura Hegan, is the daughter of Jim Hegan, a railroad baron, who is in cahoots with the Tammany gang. When Laura’s newfound friends conduct an investigation into some of Hegan’s shady dealings, the daughter is rudely awakened to the corrupt activities of the father. The plot revolves around the usual struggle of socialism against big business which dominates Sinclair’s entire body of work. The one unexpected aspect to this story is a brief mention of human trafficking. Hegan supports Tammany Hall in order to further his business interests, while a white slavery ring supports Tammany Hall in order to protect their criminal activities, so it is implied that Hegan is inadvertently supporting human trafficking and prostitution. This thread, however, is little developed. Readers familiar with Sinclair’s work will find few surprises here.
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Table of Contents
(In order of appearance)
JULIA PATTERSON: a magazine writer.
JACK BULLEN: a parlor Socialist.
LAURA HEGAN: Hegan's daughter.
ALLAN MONTAGUE: a lawyer.
JIM HEGAN: the traction king.
ANNIE ROBERTS: a girl of the slums.
ROBERT GRIMES: the boss.
ANDREWS: Hegan's secretary.
PARKER: a clerk.
[JULIA PATTERSON'S apartments in a model tenement on the lower East Side. The scene shows the living-room, furnished very plainly, but in the newest taste; "arts and crafts" furniture, portraits of Morris and Ruskin on the walls; a centre table, a couple of easy-chairs, a divan and many book-shelves. The entrance from the outer hall is at centre; entrance to the other rooms right and left.]
[At rise: JULIA has pushed back the lamp from the table and is having a light supper, with a cup of tea; and at the same time trying to read a magazine, which obstinately refuses to remain open at the right place. She is an attractive and intelligent woman of thirty. The doorbell rings.]
JULIA. Ah, Jack! [Presses button, then goes to the door.]
JACK. [Enters, having come upstairs at a run. He is a college graduate and volunteer revolutionist, one of the organizers of the "Society of the Friends of Russian Freedom"; handsome and ardent, eager in manner, and a great talker.] Hello, Julia. All alone?
JULIA. Yes. I expected a friend, but she can't come until later.
JACK. Just eating?
JULIA. I've been on the go all day. Have something.
JACK. No; I had dinner. [As she starts to clear things away.] Don't stop on my account.
JULIA. I was just finishing up. [As he begins to help.] No; sit down.
JACK. Nonsense. Let the men be of some use in the world.
JULIA. What have you been up to to-day?
JACK. We're organizing a demonstration for the Swedish strikers.
JULIA. It's marvelous how those Swedes hold on, isn't it?
JACK. The people are getting their eyes open. And when they're once open, they stay open.
JULIA. Yes. Did you see my article?
JACK. I should think I did! Julia, that was a dandy!
JULIA. Do you think so?
JACK. I do, indeed. You've made a hit. I heard a dozen people talking about it.
JACK. You've come to be the champion female muck-raker of the country, I think.
JACK. Why did you want to see me so specially tonight?
JULIA. I've a friend I want you to meet. Somebody I'm engaged in educating.
JACK. You seem to have chosen me for your favorite proselytizer.
JULIA. You've seen things with your own eyes, Jack.
JACK. Yes; I suppose so.
JULIA. And you know how to tell about them. And you've such an engaging way about you...nobody could help but take to you.
JACK. Cut out the taffy. Who's your friend?
JULIA. Her name's Hegan.
JACK. A woman?
JULIA. A girl, yes. And she's coming right along, Jack. You must take a little trouble with her, for if we can only bring her through, she can do a lot for us. She's got no end of money.
JACK. No relative of Jim Hegan, I hope?
JULIA. She's his daughter.
JACK. [With a bound.] What!
JULIA. His only daughter.
JACK. Good God, Julia!
JULIA. What's the matter?
JACK. You know I don't want to meet people like that.
JULIA. Why not?
JACK. I don't care to mix with them. I've nothing to say to them.
JULIA. My dear Jack, the girl can't help her father.
JACK. I know that, and I'm sorry for her. But, meantime, I've got my work to do...
JULIA. You couldn't be doing any better work than this. If we can make a Socialist of Laura Hegan...
JACK. Oh, stuff, Julia! I've given up chasing after will-o'-the-wisps like that.
JULIA.—But think what she could do!
JACK. Yes. I used to think what a whole lot of people could do. You might as well ask me to think what her father could do... if he only wanted to do it, instead of poisoning the life-blood of the city, and piling up his dirty millions. Go about this town and see the misery and horror... and think that it's Jim Hegan who sits at the top and reaps the profit of it all! It's Jim Hegan who is back of the organization... he's the real power behind Boss Grimes. It's he who puts up the money and makes possible this whole regime of vice and graft...
JULIA. My dear boy, don't be silly.
JACK. How do you mean? Isn't it true?
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