Jean recounts a childhood memory of Miss Julie. He begins by asking rhetorically if Miss Julie knows what the world looks like from below. Jean grew up with seven siblings on a wasteland, with the Count's garden and apple trees, like a Garden of Eden, visible from their window. He confesses that he and the other boys found a way to the "Tree of Life". Julie says, "All boys steal apples." One day, Jean caught sight of a "Turkish pavilion"—that is, an outhouse—surrounded by jasmine and honeysuckle. Jean did not know what it was, but thought the building beautiful. One day he snuck in. He heard someone coming, and got out of the outhouse through the bottom. Jean ran until coming upon the rose terrace. There he caught sight of Miss Julie. Buried under thistles and stinking dirt, Jean watched Julie walk among the roses, wondering why he, a poor boy, could not play with Julie.
Miss Julie is moved, wondering sentimentally if all poor children feel as Jean did. With exaggerated pain, Jean affirms her suspicion and continues. He says he tossed himself into the millstream but was fished out by his family. The following Sunday, Jean went to church, determined to see Miss Julie once more and then die. Recalling that it was fatal to sleep under an alder bush, Jean made himself a bed of alder leaves in a bin of oats and climbed inside. He was rescued, and quickly recovered.
Miss Julie compliments Jean on his storytelling, asking him if he went to school. Jean says he listens to the educated and has even heard Miss Julie at her most vulgar. Miss Julie protests, saying at least people of her class do not behave as he does when engaged. Jean tells her that she cannot play the innocent with him. Jean decides to go to bed. Still moved, Julie asks him to take her out to the lake. Again, Jean warns her of the injury to her reputation and urges her to go to bed. Guests are heard approaching, singing a folk song about two women. Miss Julie stands firm, convinced that the peasants love her. Jean tells her that they are singing a dirty song about the two of them. Jean suggests that they flee to his room, swearing (at Julie's insistence) that he will behave in a gentlemanly fashion. The two exit. A ballet ensues in which the peasants drink and dance around the kitchen, singing the folk song and wreaking havoc.
The story of the outhouse changes Miss Julie from a seductive coquette to a sentimental listener. Jean's reminiscence has all the trappings of a fairy tale (the seven brothers and sisters, the forbidden garden, the bed of alder leaves, the servant who falls in love with his superior at first sight), and it artfully puts Julie under his spell. Strindberg makes it clear that Jean is deceiving Julie. He speaks in an exaggerated tone and lies about the peasants' song. The fairy tale reveals the nature of Jean's desire for Julie. Jean claims he fell in love at first sight, after running through an outhouse. This story simultaneously exalts and degrades Julie. The story can be divided by its two settings: the outhouse and the rose terrace. Consciously choosing to address Julie as a servant to a master, Jean attempts to produce pathos with the story of a servant-boy naively enthralled by the incarnation of even his superiors' lowest functions. The spatial metaphor suggests class differences. Forced to flee through the bottom of the outhouse, Jean is mired in the filth of his masters. Whether Jean offers this anecdote ironically, as an insult to Julie, is unclear. Indeed, Jean's trip through the bottom of the outhouse suggests that Miss Julie is as interested in degrading the figure of servant as it is in degrading the figure of the woman.
At times, Jean's story seems ironic, even mocking. He describes the outhouse in this way: "I had never seen a castle, never seen anything besides the church. But this was more beautiful. " Jean idealizes, probably sarcastically, the filthy outhouse. He may be mocking what he sees as Julie's typical upper class ability to see everything associated with her, even outhouses, as noble. Jean's comparison degrades churches and castles just as effectively as it mocks the foul outhouse. The juxtaposition of the outhouse with the clichéd image of the adored woman spotted on the balcony degrades the story of childhood romance. Once again, positions in space reflect positions in class. Jean lies in filth, while Julie strolls on the rose terrace. Thus, while the story shows Jean at his most abject, the joke is on Julie. Jean is not only the figure abused by his masters but the servant whose perspective allows him to see their undersides. Jean wonders why he cannot enter the Count's forbidden garden at the very moment when he sees the young Julie. The implication is that the way into the manor, the way up in the world, is between Julie's legs.
The peasants' ballet is another break in the primary action of the play. The peasants' lusty destruction of the kitchen parallels the disruption the off- stage events will cause. Jean and Julie's exit marks a major turning point in the play. By retiring offstage, the two keep the most scandalous event of their flirtation, sex, hidden from view. Similarly, in dialogue sexual matters are alluded to indirectly, through suggestive phrases, suspenseful pauses, and tense ellipses.
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