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Miss Julie

August Strindberg


Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Oh, I'd love to see the whole of your sex swimming in a sea of blood just like that. I think I could drink out of your skull You think I loved you because my womb hungered for your seed Bear your child and take your name!—Come to think of it, what is your name anyway? I've never heard your last name. You probably don't even have one. I'd be Mrs. Doorkeeper or Madame Floorsweeper. You dog with my name on your collar—you lackey with my initials on your buttons!

Julie delivers this tirade after Jean decapitates her pet canary, Serena. This speech is the most explosive manifestation of Julie's hatred of men. The backdrop for Serena's decapitation is the decapitation of Saint John the Baptist. In her fantasy, Julie makes Jean (French for "John") the victim, drowning his "entire sex." The double entendre of "sex" suggests that Julie wants to drown all men, and to drown Jean's sexuality. Strindberg is suggesting that as a "degenerate" woman, Julie is dangerous to the sexuality of men. Throughout the play, Jean both hates men and longs for sex with them, a contrast that psychologists of Strindberg's day would call typical of the female hysteric. Julie describes her hatred of men not only as a desire to kill thme, but as a refusal to reproduce.

Julie also rages against the proper name. The marker of the family line, the proper name carries on the father's legacy, his dominance in the family, and his "ownership" over his wife and children. Because Jean is low class, however, his proper name becomes the sign of his inferior class position. To Julie, Jean has no name beyond his servile role (Doorkeeper or Floorsweeper). His children will not proudly carry on the family name. Julie points out that far from having a significant last name, Jean carries Julie's initials on his buttons, which emasculates him. Julie attacks both Jean's class and his manhood by repulsing the idea that she could bear his children and pointing out that he bears her name. At the same time, though, the initials on Jean's buttons are not Julie's alone—they belong to Julie's father. Julie borrows her class superiority from the Count, and must use the Count's power as a man to attack Jean's manliness.

You're making me a coward I thought I saw the bell move Afraid of a bell! But it isn't just a bell. There's somebody behind it. A hand that makes it move. And there's something that makes the hand move.—Stop your ears, that's it, stop your ears! But it only rings louder.

Jean speaks these words after hallucinating when Julie begs him to command her to kill herself. The bell, animated by an unseen power, stands for the Count's absolute authority. Throughout the play, the bell's signal, along with other symbols of the master's presence such as his boots, and Jean's coat, unman Jean, automatically returning him to his servant status. Julie, like Jean, is also submissive to the Count, her father. Jean wants to blocks his ears, but the bell only rings louder. This signifies that Jean has internalized the Count's authority.

Pretend that you're him, and that I'm you. You were such a good actor a while ago, when you were kneeling before me. You were the aristocrat then. Or else—have you ever been to the theater and seen a hypnotist? He says to his subject. "Take this broom!" and he takes it. He says, "Now sweep!" and he sweeps.

At the end of the play, a defeated Julie asks Jean to save her honor and her father's name by commanding her to commit suicide. Jean, however, cannot command her anymore. The return of the Count has left him paralyzed. To help him command, Julie proposes play-acting and hypnosis. In some sense, Julie's acts of submission and her trance-like states have foreshadowed this climax. The play is a tragedy because its willful heroine must die; the play is cruel because Julie must go to her death having lost her willfulness. Julie's idea summarizes her relationship with Jean. Jean is to command Julie as the Count would command his valet, which shows that on one level, Julie acts as Jean's servant. Julie notes that Jean can act like an aristocrat, which shows that she sees Jean partly as her social equal. However, Julie commands Jean to command her, so she partially retains her social power over him. Julie's proposal also reveals the influence of contemporary psychology on Strindberg's work. Julie's condition replicates the condition of so-called hysterical women of Strindberg's day. Hypnotism was one of the primary therapeutic methods for patients of hysteria. This final scene disfigures the hysteric's treatment, making the cure her demise.

I'm sitting on top of a pillar that I've climbed up somehow and I don't know how to get back down. When I look down I get dizzy. I have to get down but I don't have the courage to jump.

This is Miss Julie's recounting of her dream. She tells this to Jean in the course of their courtship. Julie's dreams a metaphor for her social position, and this metaphor recurs in the play. The daughter of a Count, Julie wants to clamber down from her high social standing. Jean tells her of his dream, confessing a yearning to climb up in the world. This opposition suggests Strindberg's notions of evolution, in which Miss Julie is sick because she wants to ruin herself, and Jean is healthy becomes he wants to continue climbing. This passage also establishes Miss Julie's masochism: she wants to fall. Julie seems to yearn for her ultimate death.

I caught sight of a pink dress and a pair of white stockings. That was you. I crawled under a pile of weeds, under—well, you can imagine what it was like—under thistles that pricked me and wet dirt that stank to high heaven. And all the while I could see you walking among the roses.

Jean concocts the story of the Turkish pavilion—or outhouse—in his attempt to seduce Miss Julie. In this story, he sneaks in to his master's outhouse and has to flee through the bottom when he hears someone approach. Humiliated, he runs until coming upon the vision of Julie upon the rose terrace and falls in love at first sight. Jean makes space stand for class standing. He stands in stinking wet dirt that recalls his humiliation as a servant, watching Julie from below. He looks up at her in physical space just as he looks up at her from his low rung on the social ladder. Jean calculates the pathos of the outhouse story to play to Julie's sense of social superiority and win her pity. This passage exemplifies Strindberg's idea that women are often simultaneously idealized and degraded. Jean's story consists of two successive scenes: Jean in the outhouse, looking up Julie's dress, and Jean idealizing Julie as a love object. While the second part of the story shows Jean at his most abject, the first part puts the joke on Julie. Jean is not only ground down by his masters, he is the servant whose perspective allows him to see their undersides. Such violent unmaskings of Julie recur throughout the play.

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