I am currently doing an analysis on the movie "The Machinist", which also includes an environmental analysis. I'm trying to figure out why Trevor is working as an industrial machinist at a factory. What effect does this have for the story, its themes and Trevor's characterization?
There are several reasons why Trevor works as a machinist:
It's the perfect job for his insomnia. According to his first conversation with Ivan, Trevor works the "first shift."
Trevor: You are on the first shift?
Trevor: Me too
This is later confirmed as "swing shift" at Trevor's interview with company heads after Miller's accident:
Trevor: Ivan, the guy from the swing shift.
Swing shift in the United States is usually an 8 hour shift starting between the hours of 2pm - 3pm and ending between the hours of 10pm - 11pm, depending on your job. These hours would fit well with someone suffering from insomnia due to the fact that one does not have to awaken in the early hours of the morning to go to work.
Atmosphere. It's apparent that filmmakers chose to use an atmosphere of low light and dirty surroundings, which add a tone of desperation and misery to the film. This required Trevor to work in a loud, dirty and unpleasant environment.
Dangerous working conditions. Miller's accident is an essential part of the film. Filmmakers needed to show some sort of traumatic event in Trevor's life to happen for the sake of showing his descent deeper into his mental instability. National Machine is the perfect environment to present an accident of this magnitude for Trevor to have not only caused, but witnessed.
Trevor needed an occupation with mundane repetition. Trevor is a drill press operator. This job only requires a High School diploma and is a job that is very repetitive and monotonous. This job would suit an insomniac due to the fact that you don't really have to use cognitive thinking.
Trevor's mind represents the metaphorical machine. A machine is defined as a tool containing one or more parts that uses energy to perform an intended action. This can be true for any person's mind, but Trevor's is constantly moving, hence his constant insomnia. This is also evident in one of the film's movie posters which depicts the inside of Trevor's head as being a working machine:
As for Trevor's occupation as a machinist and the effect his job has on his characterization:
Before the hit and run accident, Trevor is depicted as a nice looking, average, blue-collar American male who enjoyed fishing with his colleagues. There are really no special skills needed to work as a machinist. One does not need to possess any more than a High School diploma and it is an entry level profession that does not earn much respect or prestige. The fact that he is a machinist further proclaims how feeble his life has become.