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Miss Julie

August Strindberg

Part VII

Part VI

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

Christine enters, dressed for church and carrying a hymn-book. Miss Julie throws herself into her arms, appealing to their shared womanhood for help against Jean. Christine refuses. Embarrassed, the valet withdraws to shave. Julie has an idea: the three of them can flee together and open that hotel on Lake Como. An extended fantasy of their travels and life at the hotel follows. Julie promises that they will visit the castles of mad King Ludwig in Munich, the castles where he staged his private operas. Julie is hallucinating, and Jean begins to sharpen his razor at stage left. Miss Julie lays her head between her arms at a table. Christine chastises Jean for his plans. He commands her to respect her mistress. She says she can't anymore. Christine speaks of their redemption through Christ.

Julie asks Christine who will receive the gift of God's grace. Christine responds with the platitude: "With him the last shall be the first and it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." She leaves, promising to tell the stable boy to stop any attempted departures on their part. Listlessly, Julie asks Jean what he would do if in her place. Julie picks up the razor and slashes the air. Jean approves but says that he would never do such a thing. Julie cries that she wants to but she cannot, much like her father when he failed to kill himself. Jean replies that the Count was right to fail, because he needed to avenge himself first. Julie says the Countess is exacting her vengeance through Julie.

Jean asks if Julie has not ever loved her father. She has but hates him as well. He raised her to despise women, making her "half woman and half man." Torn between her parents, Julie lacks a self of her own. It makes no difference, though, for she still bears all the guilt. The bell rings twice. Julie jumps up and Jean changes his coat. The Count has returned. Jean takes up the speaking tube. The Count wants his boots and coffee in half an hour. Exhausted, Miss Julie implores for the last time: "Help me, Jean. Command me, and I'll obey like a dog. Do me this last favor. Save my honor, save his name." Jean says he cannot, because the return of the Count has made him weak. Julie tells Jean to pretend that he is the Count, and she is Jean. She tells him to act, or to hypnotize her. Julie falls into a trance, and Jean whispers the fatal instructions in her ear.

Julie wakes and thanks him. She asks Jean to tell her that the first will receive the gift of grace. He cannot promise grace but can tell her that she is definitely among the last. Suddenly she cannot go and begs him to command her anew. Jean cannot. She is taking all his strength away. Jean thinks he sees the bell move. He plugs his ears, but still hears to bell. The bell rings twice, and Jean jumps. He says, "It's horrible! But there's no other way for it to end.—Go!" Miss Julie walks out the door.

Analysis

Strindberg suggests that the difference between men and women is that women are masochistic, and want to ruin themselves, while men are better equipped for evolution and want to survive. Although our first image of Julie is of a sadist, her sadism quickly becomes masochistic submission to an erstwhile servant. The play itself is sadistic in exacting her demise. Jean, speaking for the play, says he cannot promise her grace, but can assure her that she has moved from among the first to the very last. Though at one point Julie describes herself as "half woman and half man," we should not take her words at face value. Julie is not a figure of gender indeterminacy; rather, the play rather conventionally imagines her "half-ness" as consisting of her mother's emotions and her father's thoughts. Julie identifies with both male and female figures in the play. As she confesses, she has no self she can call her own. Part of Julie's pleasure in her pain comes from identification with the men around her. Julie's indecision over taking her life, for example, is analogous to her father unsuccessful suicide attempt. On one level, Julie sees herself as her mother's victim, just as her father was. Julie learned to hate men from her father, and to hate women from her mother. This scene links Julie's masochistic behavior to her hatred of women, a hatred her father implanted in her.

It occurs to Julie to have Jean hypnotize her, and when she asks him to play the count, it shows her desire to hurt herself, and Jean's mastery over Julie. She wants to play the servant to his master. Projecting herself across class lines, Julie identifies with the figure of the servant bowed before his master. She also transcends gender lines, wanting to imagine herself as a cowed man. A homoerotic element infuses the request. We have heard Jean say several times that he has thought of being a count someday. His performance as count falters, however. Julie successfully imagines herself the servant, but Jean's authority over her is incomplete. Julie wakes from hypnosis and interrupts their play-act. Jean finds himself in a near-hypnotic state of his own, reduced to impotence by the presence of the Count. He is paralyzed by seeing the Count's boots and hearing his voice. Though Jean ostensibly leads Julie to her death, it is clear that both characters are under a spell.

Jean and Julie are under the total influence of the Count. The innumerable power reversals between Jean and Julie are reduced to a joint submission to the Count, who is master and father. Jean would follow Julie in suicide himself if the Count commanded. The Count—disembodied, unseen, and unheard—is a figure of supreme, magical authority. The Count's authority demands Jean's return to servitude and Julie's death. The denouement of the play is sadistic, demanding that the heroine kill herself and claiming, through Jean, that it is the only way.

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Miss Julie's Sadomasochistic Character

by Ananya97th, June 17, 2013

Miss Julie's sadomasochism was actually the result of her upbringing. Her mother was a sadistic woman who enjoyed power and causing ill to men whereas her father was masochistic because by marrying the countess, he desired his own downfall. Miss Julie grew up witnessing her mother's antics as well as her father's and inherited their particular characteristics to become a sadomasochistic woman.

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