Miss Julie

Characters

Jean

Characters Jean

Jean is the manor's thirty-year old valet, chosen as Miss Julie's lover on Midsummer's Eve, and the second major character in the play. He grew up working in the district and, although Miss Julie does not know this, he has known Miss Julie since she was a child. Initially Jean talks coarsely and disparagingly about Miss Jean with his fiancé, Christine. Later he plays the gallant while seducing of Miss Julie, honorably hesitating before her advances, telling a heart-rending tale of his childhood love for his mistress, recounting his longtime ambitions, and generally making her believe in his gentleness. Upon the consummation of their romance, when Jean finds that Miss Julie is penniless, he rejects her and confesses that he has deceived her, cruelly leaving her to her disgrace.

Jean dreams of grandeur, vaguely imagining someday opening a hotel in northern Italy and becoming a count like Miss Julie's father. However, he remains subjected to authority throughout the play. Indeed, the reminders of the Count—his boots, the speaking tube, Jean's livery, and, most importantly, the ringing bell—automatically reduce Jean to a lackey. Jean's relationship to Miss Julie is complicated by his class envy and misogyny. Jean at once elevates and scorns the object of his desire. This relationship is neatly summarized by a story in which young Jean had to flee an outhouse through the bottom and, emerging from his master's waste, came upon Julie strolling a terrace and fell in love at first sight. This story shows how Jean is mired in filth at the hands of his social betters. It also shows the simultaneous adulation and hatred Jean feels for Miss Julie. He worships her from afar, but then he sees her underside from the bottom of the outhouse.

Imagining Julie in increasingly degrading fantasies, Jean stops being a cowed, reluctantly seduced servant to a sadist reveling in Julie's ruin. Despite the many power reversals between them, however, the end of the play joins them in their submission to the Count's authority, the authority of the father and master. Julie's hypnosis is paralleled by Jean's automatic response at the ringing of the Count's bell, and in the end Jean will only be able to command Julie by imagining that he is the Count commanding himself. The class and gender battles end with Julie's and Jean's submission to their absent sovereign.