The Great Mechanic’s Archetype In Utopian Discourse In The 19th – 20th Centuries


The figure of the Great Mechanic is associated with the Enlightenment and deism. German romanticists, who dreamt of creating an ideal world based on the principle of romantic irony, gave it new life in utopian discourse in the 19th – 20th centuries. E. Hoffmann transformed the archetype of the Great Mechanic and determined the main lines of its development. Demiurgic ambitions of the “skillful watchmaker” were reflected in the deeds of the Benefactor (E. Zamyatin), Tuskub (A. Tolstoy) and Big Brother (G. Orwell). An archetypical affinity of these images suggests genetic links with utopia of a living person. The object is the archetype of the Great Mechanic in utopian discourse in the 19th – 20th centuries. The purpose is to determine the peculiarities of the basic archetype in the texts by E. Zamyatin, A. Tolstoy and G. Orwell. The tasks are: to determine a demiurgic component in E. Hoffmann’s pretext; to analyse archetypical elements in the images of the Benefactor, Tuskub and Big Brother; to correlate the results in order to determine conceptually significant connections; to determine certain system peculiarities of utopian discourse in the 19th – 20th centuries. The methodology suggests the complex usage of techniques of comparative analysis. So, utopian discourse of the 19th – 20th centuries is an organic whole, determined by unity of archetypical bases. The archetype of the Great Mechanic played one of the main roles. The results and methodology can be used in interdisciplinary research into the problem of interaction between cultural phenomena.

Keywords: An archetypedemiurgedystopiapretextromanticismutopia


Modern humanities, as indeed all European culture, is inextricably linked to ancient wisdom: formal logic, text theory, hermeneutics, etc. However, in some cases, this connection reveals itself in those fields where Europe seemingly began to write from scratch. Thus, the utopian discourse of the 20th century is traditionally elevated to Sir Thomas More's and Tommaso Campanella’s works. At the same time, Plato's “The Republic”, equally traditionally, is cut off by the theses – “slave-owning utopia”. At first sight, such a point of view, defined by the class-based approach, is quite legitimate because it meets the sufficient grounds law requirements. The only downside is that, in this respect, the conceptually significant connections of Plato to the constructs of Jonathan Swift, Vladimir Soloviev, Yevgeny Zamyatin (Slobodnyuk, 2010; Zubareva, 2018) and even Ivan Yefremov remain behind the scenes. Moreover, the utopian strivings class-based interpretation sets aside the thousand-year human thought experience (Filippova, 2016), embodied in the lost paradise archetypical concept, and note that this interpretation equates – quite rightly – new Eden seekers with the figure of Manilov. But once you look at the problem from an ontological perspective, everything radically changes. Utopia, which represents a model of ideal existence, turns out to be a direct analogue of a new Garden of Eden and therefore can be interpreted accordingly.

As it is known, the reality created by the supreme being turned out to be incompatible with the imperfection of human nature. The expulsion took place, and the question of the fall causes gave rise to the biblical theodicy which seems to have found an exhaustive resolution in the Job story. Unfortunately, as time has shown, humanity, using free will bestowed from above, questioned not only Yahweh's words about the fear of God and about the impossibility of knowing the Deity's actions secret meaning (Job, 28:24; 42: 1-3) but also the figure of the Creator himself. And the key role in this case was played by ancient wisdom, or more accurately, by the opposition of Plato and Aristotle.

Reducing platonic otherness and truly existing being to matter and form, Stagirite inevitably faced the need to “reformulate” the Whole, with the result that the Supreme Mind or the Unmoved (or Prime) Mover came into existence. The impersonal figure, which gave (either consciously or accidentally) the initial impetus to being and then frozen in self-exploration, periodically appeared in the Middle Ages doctrines (Ismailism, gnostic constructs, etc.), until by the efforts of deists (and the whole Age of Enlightenment) it gained a new name – the Great Mechanic. However, fiction writing of that time reacted rather sluggishly to such a metamorphosis. It is all the more striking that after a relatively short period of time – by historical measures, the universal mechanism creator character was given a new life in the work of Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, a German Romantic writer.

Problem Statement

Romanticism, inherently incompatible with the Enlightenment ideals, obviously could not accept mechanistic principles of being arranging. Imagination, fantasy, free creativity of a free artist – the deities, next to which, at first sight, there was no place for the Great Mechanic. And it is indeed true, but with one clarification: there was no place exactly next to them.

It hardly needs to be proved that romantic doctrine in its artistic realisations tended to unrestrainable paradoxalism. Furthermore, paradox successfully served both as a means of refuting false knowledge and as a means of proving the truth: suffice it to recall numerous experiments of the evil inclination aestheticization, as a result of which the Lucifer topic acquired the exact opposite of the original content. Considering the latter circumstance, we have the right to assume that such a transformation could affect other traditional structures, for example, emphasized romanticists’ asociality.

Research Questions

Modern society did not evoke positive associations among the “blue flower” seekers, but can we say that romantic negativity was limited to harsh criticism and simple denial of the corresponding institutions? In our opinion, we cannot, because the act of overcoming this world did not imply leaving into nothingness. On the contrary, out there beyond bounds , the romanticists were after a new reality, free from all the shortcomings of the surrounding world.

It is interesting that, the romanticists, having endowed an artist with absolute freedom of creativity and building their own universe, realized: this is a place that does not exist; at least here. It, therefore, follows that the utopian component was originally included in the romantic doctrine ontology.

Accepting the last thesis, we get the opportunity to suggest genetic links of the utopian discourse presented in the romanticists’ works and texts of the 20th century. In order to test this hypothesis, the Great Mechanic archetype in the utopian discourse of the 19th – 20th centuries will be studied. Having comprehended the named archetype embodiment features in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s work, we will try to determine the peculiarities of the archetype’s evolution in Yevgeny Zamyatin’s, Aleksey Tolstoy’s and George Orwell’s texts.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of our study is to examine the archetype of the “Great Mechanic” in its establishment and development. In order to achieve the purpose, we have formulated a system of tasks in which it is planned: 1) to determine a demiurgic component in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s pretext; 2) to analyse the archetypical elements in the images of the Benefactor, Tuskub and Big Brother; 3) to correlate the results in order to determine conceptually significant connections; 4) to test the original hypothesis validity and identify some systemic features of the utopian discourse of the 19th – 20th centuries.

Research Methods

The study general methodology is determined by the planned tasks, as well as by the utopian discourse synthetic nature, and involves the integrated use of historical-literary, historical-philosophical, religious-philosophical, and comparative analysis methods at all stages of the study.


The “Great Mechanic” and the “skillful watchmaker”

As it is known, one of the main objectives of romanticism was the creation of an ideal artistic world. However, romantic irony often made its adjustments. In order to confirm this thesis, we suggest referring to the legacy of E. T. A. Hoffmann, and more specifically to the author’s ontological experiments, which are reflected in the fairy tale “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”.

A Christmas story with a happy ending, as it turns out upon closer examination, conceals a “dark” plotline inextricably linked with the image of Drosselmeyer. A good godfather, a funny-looking little man in a glass wig is proving to be a figure with demiurgic ambitions. However, his experiments do not produce a positive result. The mechanical toys which the godfather gives to the Stahlbaum family are perfect but lifeless and doomed to act according to the once given algorithm, because “the machinery has to work as it is made.” (Hoffman, 1978, p. 10).

Acting as a “skillful watchmaker”, Drosselmeyer creates a mousetrap and... modernizes his own nephew (Hoffmann, 1978, p. 44, 56). But in the enchanted Pirlipat's case, the great master is powerless: “He took courage to trust his art and his good luck <...>. He very skillfully took Princess Pirlipat to pieces, screwed off her hands and arms, and examined her construction inside; but thus he had the vexation of discovering that the bigger the Princess grew the more unshapely she would become, and he could hit on no way of mending the matter. He carefully put the Princess together again, and sank down in gloomy dejection beside her cradle” (Hoffmann, 1978, p. 47).

The reason for the described failures, at first sight, is obvious – romantic irony (Botnikova, 2005; Kolesnikova et al., 2015; Porshneva, 2016; Said-Battalova, 2015). However, it is the obviousness of the answer that makes us reject it. After all, if you step aside from the details and think about the general course of events, it will become clear that, through trial and error, Drosselmeyer did find his own and the only possible solution to the problem...

What distinguishes the Great Mechanic from the skillful watchmaker: 1) the scope of actions? – Certainly; 2) the absolute ability to create, and thus to destroy? – Yes and no, because the deity who has withdrawn from the world does not interfere with the established order of things, but Drosselmeyer is not limited in his actions...

The correlation of attributes could be continued for quite a long time, but, in our opinion, there is one essentially important difference in this case: the Great Mechanic gives creatures soul, mind, and free will, while the “skillful watchmaker” only has power over form. Not without reason Pirlipat, bewitched by his efforts, acquires her lost beauty but at the same time remains a soulless doll, which is unable to empathize and love. And when Drosselmeyer realises it, the Nutcracker appears in the Stahlbaum’s house…

The Queen of Marzipan Castle

The love story of little Marie and the toothy hideous Nutcracker is able to touch the hardest hearts. In fact, how can one not admire the brave deed of a girl who is ready to give her life in order to protect the unfortunate prince? Of course one does admire it, and we do not cast doubt on Marie Stahlbaum’s generosity. But the question is, who forced her to be so generous? – Good godfather Drosselmeyer…

The Nutcracker defeats the Mouse King and takes Marie for a walk in fairytale land. And again, questions emerge... Who pulled the Nutcracker into an unequal battle? – Loving uncle Drosselmeyer. What do the surroundings of Marzipan Castle look like? – The toy Drosselmeyer once had in mind: “‘Ah,’ cried Mary, quite excited, ‘this is really the lake which Godfather Drosselmeyer once promised to make for me’” (Hoffman, 1978, p. 77).

Furthermore... Peering into the water surface, Marie sees someone else's face: “‘Ah,’ she cried joyfully, clapping her little hands. ‘Ah, just look, Herr Drosselmeyer! Down there is the Princess Pirlipat, who smiles at me so graciously!’” (Hoffmann, 1978, p. 80). But young Drosselmeyer is in no hurry to share her joy, isn’t he? – “…Nutcracker sighed almost mournfully, and said:

‘Oh, dearest Miss Stahlbaum, that is not the Princess Pirlipat; that is always and only yourself, always only your own pretty face, that smiles so sweetly out of the rose waves’” (Hoffmann, 1978, p. 80). There is no doubt that one could ignore these oddities, especially since the fairy tale has a happy ending: the Nutcracker proposes to Marie and takes her to the wonderful land.

Nevertheless, allowing ourselves three more questions... Who blessed the youthful hearts union?.. How was Marie able to get married at the age of eight and, finally, why did the happy bride look like an adult princess who mercilessly rejected her savior? The answer is clear: Drosselmeyer, having blessed the future newlyweds, at the same time gave Pirlipat’s beautiful body an equally beautiful soul – the soul of Marie Stahlbaum (Slobodnyuk, 2019).

As we see, the Counsellor managed to outperform the Great Mechanic. The masterfully twisted intrigue allowed Drosselmeyer not only to bring the created world to life. At the cost of his goddaughter’s life, he achieved absolute harmony of form and matter, completing the creation of an ideal being in which henceforth the Skillful Watchmaker’s great plan will be embodied.

Drosselmeyer’s Descendants

The utopian discourse of the 20th century was formed in a complex interplay of religious-philosophical, aesthetic, and legal searches (Avtuhovich, 2018; Grigorovskaya, 2018; Ivanov, 2016; Mazenova, 2018; Mikhaylova, 2017; Romanenko, 2018; Slobodnyuk, 2010). The lost paradise basic archetype found its expression in the unitotality admirers’ doctrines, in second-generation symbolism theurgism and demiurgical endeavours of acmeism, in theocratic searches of sophianism and the theory of “social ideal” (Slobodnyuk, 2010). The common pathos of utopian constructs remained in tune with the traditional one for a long time, however, the events of 1917 dramatically changed the usual view of the world (Nickolsky, 2018), and that is what ultimately: 1) led to a drastic rethinking of past religious-philosophical and religious aspirations (Demidova, 2018; Jovovič, 2019; Prosich, 2019), 2) changed the forms of utopian ideas embodiment in reality (Khapaeva, 2017; Smola, 2019) and artistic creativity (Andreeva & Bedrikova, 2017; Zavarkina & Khramykh, 2017).

The first experience of creating another utopia (also known as dystopia), in our opinion, was “Aelita” by Aleksey Tolstoy. Taking away the lead from Yevgeny Zamyatin, we are guided by the fact that Tolstoy's novel was published somewhat earlier than “We”, which is considered as a classic of the genre (Andreeva & Bedrikova, 2017).

Tolstoy’s work is generally classified as science fiction and, unfortunately, literary tradition, with rare exceptions (Yurchenko, 2018), legitimizes a one-sided assessment of the novel. Of course, the ideological reduction of Tolstoy’s original text played a significant role here, but even in the considerably edited novel, the dystopian line remained in its place, shielded from censorship by a screen of revolutionary rhetoric. In addition, Tolstoy removed the subtitle “The Decline of Mars” already in the second version of the novel, therefore concealing direct references to Oswald Spengler’s works. But while the dystopian line, embodied in the stories about the Magatsitls and the Blue Mountain Tribe, turned out to be slightly obscured, the Golden Age myth, directly associated with the “lost paradise” archetype, remained in its place, and the latter gives us the right to reliably correlate the dystopic line of “Aelita” with the utopian discourse of the last century.

The image of Tuskub, the head of the Supreme Council of Engineers, is not just a technocrat reveling in power. Tuskub, a direct descendant of the Magatsitls, the Knowledge holders, is obsessed with the idea of the Golden Age. At the same time, the heir of the Atlanteans rigidly determines the goal of gaining a new Eden – universal happiness for the elite and majestic extinction: “We must die peacefully in our dwellings. <...> We shall leave nothing standing but the institutions we need to sustain life. And we shall make criminals, drunkards, madmen, and day-dreamers work in them. We shall shackle them. They shall be offered the gift of life, for which they crave. Those who obey us shall get country holdings, means of livelihood, and comfort. Twenty millenniums of hard labour have given us the right to live in leisure, quiet and meditation. The end of civilization will be crowned by the Golden Age” (Tolstoy, 1985, p. 349). It is not difficult to see that the sacral aspect in Tuskub’s sayings is brought to nothing. The reason for such a reduction is understandable: unwilling to see a connection with the long-standing plan of the Sons of Sky, who set the development algorithm for Tuma, the head of the Supreme Council opens the door to the pinnacle of absolute power and the status of the Great Mechanic of Martian civilization.

Zamyatin’s Benefactor, unlike his confrere, is originally a living deity. In the One State, that lives according to the laws of the Table of Hours, his task is reduced simply to the prevention of ideal well-functioning mechanism breakdowns because human material is far from being always at the proper level and slows down the forward motion towards the coming paradise. And if Tuskub, faced with a similar situation, proclaims the need for selection on legal, eugenic, and ideological grounds, the Benefactor decides to fix all of mankind.

The operation to remove imagination (the essence of the soul) outwardly looks like a perverted image of vivisection experiments of the 19th century. However, Dr. Moreau, who tried to replace divine volition with a scalpel and upbringing, turns out to be as innocent as a babe when contrasted with the Benefactor. The latter does not just want to remove the unnecessary, in his opinion, detail from the mechanism. No, he is going to correct a mistake that once crept into the creation with the connivance of the biblical absolute: “The ancient dream of paradise... Remember: those in paradise no longer know desires, no longer know pity or love. There are only the blessed, with their imaginations excised (this is the only reason why they are blessed) – angels, obedient slaves of God...” (Zamyatin, 2010, p. 180). But it was just the desires that destroyed Adam and Eve! It means that the Benefactor wants to create his own Eden, whose inhabitants will harmoniously combine in themselves intellect and a total lack of free will.

Orwell’s Big Brother, typologically close to the Benefactor, can hardly claim the title of Great Mechanic. The Ingsoc true rulers’ complete impersonality turns Big Brother into a character that resembles a degenerated Fate or Hoffmann’s Confectioner, “through the mere mention” of whose name “the greatest tumult can be appeased” (Hoffman, 1978, p. 84). However, Big Brother’s all-pervasive gaze (Orwell, 1989, p. 22), as Big Brother himself, is not only a phantom materialized in merry Ingsoc supporters’ minds by the Ministry of Truth and other entities armed with the ultimate weapons of doublethink. Big Brother is both an idol, created through the Old Testament commandment violation, and one of Newspeak tools, which allows this Great Mechanic to successfully construct an ideal (at a given moment) reality (Orwell, 1989).


The Great Mechanic of the Enlightenment represented the apotheosis of rational ground. However, as time has shown, reason, existing in isolation from the soul, opens the gate to nowhere. The first division of Nature outlined by Eriugena, the Universal Intellect – by Ismailists, the Supreme Being – by the Jacobins, etc. are proof of that. The history of fiction, which is perhaps the most accurate indicator of immediate and coming public attitudes, fully confirms our idea. While the Hoffmann's phantasmagoria Great Mechanic, discovering his “dark” features, nevertheless remains the Creator of the ideal world (even if it is self-enclosed), a radical rebirth of the original archetype took place in the utopian discourse of the 20th century. The crisis of historical Christianity, the complete failure of rationalist philosophy, the objective factors of socio-economic formations development, and the general crisis of the European world-view played a role in this regard. As a result, a fundamentally different figure stepped in, arrogating to itself the right to establish an unshakable world order, changing in accordance with endless volitions of the new Great Mechanic.

Therefore, summarizing the work results, we come to the following conclusions:

1) within the images of the two “Creators” (Drosselmeyer and Confectioner) E. T. A. Hoffmann identified the main capacities in the Great Mechanic archetype development: an active curator or unknown fate;

2) the demiurgical ambitions of the “skillful watchmaker” eager to create an ideal world were directly reflected in the actions of Tuskub (Alexey Tolstoy) and the Benefactor (Yevgeny Zamyatin);

3) George Orwell’s Big Brother, representing a kind of opposition to Hoffmann’s Great Mechanic, gravitates to the image of Confectioner and degrades, becoming the tool of the new Great Mechanic, personified in the Ministry of Truth activities;

4) the natural human utopia, generally accepted by the romanticists, is deconstructed and embodied in the Tuskub Golden Age utopian concept;

5) natural law utopianism, dating back to antiquity and getting its second wind in modern times, finds an original interpretation in the constructs of the Benefactor: the natural law, bestowed by Yahweh, is a positive law because it is incompatible with the nature of the numbers born in the One State. Thus, only the one, who has found ways to correct human nature, can and will be the distributor of rights behind the Green Wall.

All of the above allows us to conclude that our hypothesis about the utopian discourse of the 19th – 20th centuries organic integrity caused by the unity of archetypal foundations, among which the Great Mechanic archetype played one of the main roles, is generally true, and, therefore, the work results and its methodology can be used in interdisciplinary research, dedicated to the problem of cultural phenomena various levels interaction.


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Slobodnyuk, S., Tsurkan, V., & Abramzon, T. (2021). The Great Mechanic’s Archetype In Utopian Discourse In The 19th – 20th Centuries. In E. V. Toropova, E. F. Zhukova, S. A. Malenko, T. L. Kaminskaya, N. V. Salonikov, V. I. Makarov, A. V. Batulina, M. V. Zvyaglova, O. A. Fikhtner, & A. M. Grinev (Eds.), Man, Society, Communication, vol 108. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 517-525). European Publisher.