Miss Julie

Main Ideas


Main Ideas Themes

Animal Doubles

Two pets appear in Miss Julie. Both function as doubles for the heroine. The first pet is Diana, Julie's dog, who is pregnant by the gatekeeper's mongrel. Diana's name is a joke, for the goddess Diana is the goddess of virgins. Her resemblance to her owner implies that Miss Julie is not good looking. The second pet is Serena the canary, who Jean decapitates on a chopping block after deciding that Miss Julie cannot take the bird with them on their journey. The decapitation of the bird is linked to the story of Saint John the Baptist, who was decapitated. Saint John's story can be read as an allegory of a castration staged by a conspiracy of women. Here the terms of the allegory are reversed: Serena (or Miss Julie, who Serena symbolizes) is submitted to the chopping block. The execution of Serena sends Julie into a rage. She restores the biblical story in her fantasy, imagining Jean (French for "John") and his "entire sex" swimming in blood.

The pantomime and ballet

The play's numerous pantomimes function as pauses in action, interrupting the otherwise unbroken episode with slow, highly realistic interludes. Christine cleans the kitchen, curls her hair, and hums a tune; Jean scribbles a few calculations. Such injections of the banal are typical of the naturalistic theater. Also a sort of pantomime, the dance of the peasants operates differently, laying waste to the kitchen and disrupting a largely two-person play with a rowdy crowd. Many critics have identified this pagan festivity of the rumor-mongering crowd as symbolic of Miss Julie's ruin and prefigurative of German expressionism.

Some objects symbolize the Count, suggesting him in his absence: his boots, Jean's livery, the speaking tube, and, most importantly, the ringing bell. Together, these objects symbolize the workings of the master's authority. Their effect on Jean in particular reveals the magical and irresistible nature of the Count's power. They also reduce Jean to a spineless, yes-man.