Julie divulges her family's past. Her mother was born to commoners and grew up to believe in "equality, the independence of women, and all that." Though averse to marriage, Julie's mother married the Count and raised Julie as a "nature child". Julie had to learn everything boys did. With the men and women having switched roles, the estate fell into ruin and public disgrace. Julie's father rebelled and took command. Julie's mother inexplicably fell ill and took to spending her nights outside. Then a mysterious fire burned down the estate. The Countess suggested that the Count borrow money from a friend of hers to rebuild the farm. Jean thinks it is obvious that Julie's mother set the fire, and the friend was her lover. Upon discovering the Countess's revenge plot, the Count attempted suicide but ultimately rallied to make his wife suffer for her treachery. Unknowingly, Julie took her mother's side in their marital strife and grew up to hate men as her mother did.
Jean points out that Julie got engaged. Julie says she just wanted to enslave him and ultimately got bored. Jean mocks her with the truth: Julie's fiancé rejected her. Julie wants Jean killed like an animal. However, the two revive their plans to flee. Julie dreams of enjoying themselves for as long as they can, and then dying together. Jean has no intention of dying, and reveals that Como is a stinking hole, only good for tourists and their short- lived romances. Jean moves to go to bed. When Julie points out his debt to her, he tosses her a silver coin. Julie invokes the law's protection for young maidens; Jean retorts that she is lucky there is no law against seductresses. Julie wants to flee, marry, and divorce. Jean suggests he might refuse her hand: after all, he has better ancestors than Julie. He is sick of her entreaties. His own people do not behave so wildly. He tells her she is sick.
Julie begs him to help her, to tell her what to do. First he advises that she stay. Julie says their liaison might continue and with more severe consequences, alluding to the absent Count. Stunned, Jean immediately commands her to flee. Julie protests that she cannot leave by herself. She submits completely: "Tell me what to do. Order me." Disgusted, Jean obliges, commanding her to get dressed, collect traveling money, and prepare for her departure. Julie begs him to join her in her room. He refuses.
Strindberg's misogyny is apparent in Julie's continued humiliation. Her mother's feminist ideas are portrayed as unquestionably abhorrent and her treachery as a familiar story. Julie is supposedly lucky that the law does not arrest temptresses. Jean thinks Julie is sick, a diagnosis we are meant to agree with. This scene blames Miss Julie's illness on her family history, laying the blame at the feet of her mother. Strindberg was interested in psychology, and incorporated it into his literary and scholarly works. Miss Julie and the Countess are models of the hysteric, as popularly conceived of in the nineteenth century. When Strindberg wrote, hysteria was thought to be a female disease. The word "hysteria" is derived from the Greek word for womb (hustera). In antiquity and beyond, people believed in specious disorders and demon possession of the female reproductive system. In Strindberg's day, hysteria—though a hotly contested disease—increasingly came to refer not only to theories of innate degeneracy, but to sexual disturbances. Specifically, it was thought that women became hysterics when they failed or refused to accept their sexual desires. Physicians defined this as the failure to become a sexual object for a man.
Julie appears torn between her hatred and disgust for men, and an irresistible attraction to them. She attempts to enslave and even destroy men, but she submits to Jean. Her desperate plea for Jean to accompany her to her bedroom is meant to demonstrate her feminine masochism. Julie's paralysis is another symptom of her hysteria. After sleeping with Jean, she is portrayed as totally without will, unable to think for herself. The play explains Julie's state as a product of her mother's influence. The Countess suffered from a "masculinity complex" (a charge leveled against feminists, from Strindberg's day to the present), usurping her husband's authority and disastrously attempting to reverse gender roles on the estate. She raised Julie just like a boy, making her a mannish woman and teaching her to hate men. Julie became bent on revenging herself on men and bringing ruin to the paternal household. Her mother's influence has divided her from her supposedly appropriate desires.
Along with providing Julie's family history, this scene continues to develop the theme of class, particularly in relation to genealogy. At one point, teasing Julie with the threat of rejecting her hand in marriage, Jean declares his family line superior to his mistress's. "I don't have any ancestors at all!" he cries. "But I can become an ancestor myself." Jean fantasizes about making himself, free of all ties of kin, and breaking the bonds of his servitude.
Take a Study Break
Every Shakespeare Play Summed Up in a Quote from The Office
Every Book on Your English Syllabus, Summed Up in Marvel Quotes
A Roundup of the Funniest Great Gatsby Memes You'll Ever See
QUIZ: How Many of These Literary Jeopardy! Questions Can You Answer Correctly?
7 "Crazy" Women in Literature Who Were Actually Being Totally Reasonable
Honest Names for All the Books on Your English Syllabus
QUIZ: Are You a Hero, a Villain, or an Anti-Hero?