"Miss Julie" as "A Naturalistic Tragedy

"
Author(s): Alice Templeton
Source: Theatre Journal, Vol. 42, No. 4, Disciplines of Theater: Fin De Siècle Studies (Dec.,
1990), pp. 468-480
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3207723
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the lord of creation. The critical preface is also more classist than the play itself. Jean is "the beginning of a new species" who is evolving "through self-education into a future gentleman of the upper classes" (210). standing with man. 1986). 1: 208-09.. despite the "slave nature" (211) that makes him cower at the sound of the Count's voice or even at the sight of the Count's Alice Templeton is an Assistant Professor of English at Murray State University. However. .." in Making a Difference: Feminist Literary Criticism. Miss Julie as "A Naturalistic Tragedy" Alice Templeton In an article encouraging feminist critics to deal with male-authored. and she represents a degenerating aristocracy crumbling in the face of a rising middle class. .55. and dis- honest when being so benefits him. "the man-hating half-woman. While Julie is the degenerate aristocrat. and trans. but coarse underneath" (210). "hard-hearted" (210). the creator of culture. or else by their frustration in not being able to compete with the male sex" (209). Gayle Greene and Coppelia Kahn (London: Methuen. ed. he is "polished on the outside."2 Such women as Julie. 251. 18 Apr 2017 07:41:43 UTC All use subject to http://about. Strindberg claims."' August Strindberg's play Miss Julie and its preface provide a telling example of Munich's point. Feminist Criticism and Literary Tradition." the "Victim of a superstition S. if only because both of the main characters are dismissed as types representative of their classes. 1985). In the preface. Above all. is meant to be the equal of man or could ever possibly be . ed. The misogyny of the preface resides in the wry pleasure it takes in the demise of Julie and her misguided desire to live outside her so-called "natural" gender and class stations. All page numbers in the text refer to this edition.org/terms . 2August Strindberg. Miss Julie. She has published articles on literary theory and is writing a book concerning feminist poetics. "fortunately are overcome eventually either by a hostile reality. Evert Sprinchorn (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Adrienne Munich writes that "Critical discourse has tended to be more mi- sogynist than the texts it examines. that woman. 'Adrienne Munich. or by the uncontrolled breaking loose of their repressed instincts. Strindberg is quick to steroetype his characters and especially eager to condemn Julie. According to the preface Julie is the victim of a hideous power struggle between her father and mother. that stunted form of human being. 468 This content downloaded from 117. she is modern Woman.242. "Notorious Signs.118 on Tue.jstor. even though "his character is unformed and divided" (210).. in August Strindberg: Selected Plays. which the author attached to the play after it was written. opportunistic. canonized texts.

" in August Strindberg: Selected Plays. their non-linear dialogue." in Strindberg: A Collection of Critical Essays. Still Zola was troubled by the "analytical shorthand" and "abstraction" of the characters in The Father. in particular.5 Yet even the preface's specific claims about these qualities of the play are often called into question. 196-97. 58. 1982). 7Evert Sprinchorn.118 on Tue. And your captain who has not even a name. 4Evert Sprinchorn.55. He wrote to Strindberg: "I like characters to exist in the round. While the preface does direct attention to some of the most important qualities of the play-the multiple motives of the characters. "Introduction to Miss Julie. the preface "is undoubtedly the most important manifesto of naturalistic theater. Strindberg also defends them as realistic in their psychological complexity. 1971). In Strindberg: A Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press. class stereotyping is inextricably bound to sex stereotyping. Apparently Strindberg intended for the preface to serve many functions. do not give me the full sensation of life that I demand" (qtd. 112. and its realistic portrayal of sex.3 Evert Sprinchorn points out that while the ideas presented in the preface are not original to Strindberg. your other characters who are virtually abstract creations. one should be able to elbow them. to sell the play rather than to explain it. Sprinchorn simply concludes that the "preface was written . Ibsen had already "revolutionised drama by writing tragedies about ordinary middle- class people in everyday prose" and by creating self-divided.org/terms . Although she is the aristocrat in class. and the sexual and class antagonisms between Julie and Jean-many of its claims are reductive and even misleading.242. the construction of dialogue."' It seems that in adding the preface to the play. the simplicity of structure and staging. their inconsistency of will. Yet the preface is not necessarily a trustworthy guide to the play's meanings or to its operations as experimental drama. answered Zola's charge that the characters in Strindberg's earlier play The Father were too abstractly drawn for truly naturalistic drama. "Miss Julie. While the preface to Miss Julie does stereotype Julie and Jean by sex and class. they should breathe our air. the preface positioned Miss Julie in the context of the naturalist literary movement and. its highly compressed form. Strindbergian Drama: Theme and Structure (Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International. MISS JULIE / 469 boots. 6Martin Lamm. 18 Apr 2017 07:41:43 UTC All use subject to http://about. ed. 5Meyer.6 With all of these motives apparently at work. 3John Ward. the preface is a criticism of his attempt "to create a new drama by filling the old forms with new contents" (Preface 204). non-linear dialogue. For example. 1:200. "In the sexual sphere. such as the bird's blood and the razor. Egil Tornqvist. . .jstor. According to Meyer. 1980). Jean is "superior to Miss Julie in that he is a man" (211). the claim that the dialogue in Miss Julie randomly "wanders here and there" (212) has been challenged by Martin Lamm and by Egil T6rnqvist. Strindberg as Dramatist (New Haven: Yale University Press. Strindberg may have been more interested in positioning himself as an artist and as a male than in precisely representing the complexity of the play itself. 1982). Otto Reinert (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall. 1985). 50-63. he is the aristocrat" (211)."4 Michael Meyer argues that even though Ibsen is never mentioned. Michael Meyer describes Zola's response to The Father as a "letter of admiration" and points out that Strindberg used it as preface to the French translation of the play (188). in Meyer 185). In the preface. According to John Ward. Miss Julie offered further innovations through its use of irregular. 28. This content downloaded from 117. The Social and Religious Plays of August Strindberg (London: Athlone Press. Strindberg. inconsistent characters. and their association of ideas with concrete objects.

i'Sprinchorn.118 on Tue."9 It is "romantic theatre. while tragedy depends on the possibilities of moral choice and of error. especially feminist readers. The reason is that the dramatic text provides for readings that the preface pointedly tries to suppress. through Julie's unfortunate demise. which is now being dissipated by naturalism ." 114. then." For these critics Strindberg's inability to conceive of Julie's decline in a strictly scientific way salvages the play as a work of art. Strindberg's art holds in store much more value for readers.. In fact. "John Eric Bellquist."'0 Also John Eric Bellquist claims that "Miss Julie is . Though in the preface Strindberg urges us toward a painfully deterministic. even temporarily. 18 Apr 2017 07:41:43 UTC All use subject to http://about. Strindberg attested to the importance of the dialectic between these apparently contrary effects by subtitling the play "A Naturalistic Tragedy. It would seem. Reading Miss Julie against rather than through the preface is made possible by the tension between naturalism and modern tragedy within the play. a tragic legacy of romanticism.org/terms .55. Naturalism and tragedy appear to be contradictory literary and philosophical stances. since naturalism implies a determined world. than his critical discourse. the fallacy of attempting to live outside those biological and social laws. to restate Munich's thesis about the relative merits of critical discourse and the texts it examines. He describes Miss Julie as a tragic type. 35. the naturalistic qualities alone cannot account for the play's powerful effect. "Miss Julie. offering us the spectacle of a desperate fight against nature. Strindberg As Dramatist. . a romantic play by a romantic author concerned with existential problems". Julie's suicide is a "romantic image" in Kermode's sense of the term. that naturalism and tragedy could not coexist without serious qualifications of both concepts. for Bellquist. 45.. Strindberg As Dramatist. An unfortunate outcome in a determined world is usually con- sidered pathetic. even feminist reading. 470 / Alice Templeton Certainly the qualities that make the play one of the finest of its kind are not limited to those naturalistic characteristics emphasized by the preface. 9Sprinchorn. In the preface Strindberg suggests that this same antagonism between naturalism and tragedy structures the play. In this case." The subtitle is usually understood to mean that the play employs naturalistic dramatic techniques.jstor. that it validates naturalistic beliefs about heredity and environment. misogynist read- ing of Miss Julie." Scandinavian Studies 60 (1988): 7-8. not just naturalistically. while the same outcome in a world where individual will asserts itself is considered tragic. the preface is more extreme and rigid in its naturalistic convictions than the play. Sprinchorn also gives weight to the tragic effect by regarding the play "less as a social problem play than as a type of modern tragedy. and that it shows. This content downloaded from 117. [209] 8Lamm. the play itself is open to an anti-naturalist. "Rereading Friken Julie: Undercurrents in Strindberg's Naturalist Intent. the play's theme is that "basic differences in upbringing and social position cannot be reconciled."' Still Lamm emphasizes that the play's excellence lies in the fact that Strindberg conceives of Julie's destiny tragically." in which the "spectator begins as a witness to a realistic event and ends as a participator in a ritual. .242.. As Lamm puts it.

to respond to Miss Julie's destruction as tragedy is to depend on "those inferior and unreliable mechanical apparatuses called emotions" (205): if Miss Julie wins the audience's sympathy. MISS JULIE / 471 Julie's "desperate fight against nature" is of course embodied in her struggle with Jean. . The preface again emphasizes the antagonism between naturalism and tragedy when it speculates about the audience's responses to Miss Julie. and heartless spectacle that life offers us" (205) because for him the "alternate rising and falling provides one of life's greatest pleasures . cynical. in the play taken as a whole. considered along with the criticism that praises the play for its tragic and romantic effect. perhaps unintentionally. a requirement for understanding the play as a tragedy in the broadest sense of the term. This content downloaded from 117. But also in large part her tragedy is that she is not a naturalist: in the first half of the play she does not or cannot give in to a deterministic world- view. To sympathize with Julie. however. imply that the tragic dimension of Miss Julie arises from a breach in naturalistic vision. the spokesman in the play for naturalism. According to Strindberg. While Strindberg says that he hopes that audiences will respond to his tragedy with naturalistic reason rather than with the emotion and self-deception typical of "young- sters and the half-educated . Philip Dodd finds ambivalence within the preface itself that conveys Strindberg's own mistrust of naturalism. it is because "we are still too weak to overcome the fear that the same fate might overtake us" (205). 18 Apr 2017 07:41:43 UTC All use subject to http://about. Dodd concludes that the ambivalence in the preface's tone arises from Strindberg's "fear of the consequences for the theatre of the supremacy of 'judgement.'3 The difficulty is in locating the rift in naturalism: is it in the character of Julie. Her romanticism is primarily a profound discontent with the sexual and class conventions of her day and an ac- companying desire to abandon those socially-defined differences. '3Lamm. in the audience. and so im- proves. along with Julie. 12In "Fairy Tales.118 on Tue. As a result. at least for the holiday night during which the play takes place. are to blame. "Miss Julie. is then to respond to the play with outmoded romantic emotion: it is to fail. Julie's tragedy is that she is caught in the middle of indifferent life-forces that doom her to weakness and death.. he defends his use of hypnotic suggestion and other dreamlike devices that appeal emotionally to the unconscious." 111.55. or in all of these? The preface contends that the vestigial emotions of the audience.. Miss Julie can be un- derstood as "a naturalistic tragedy" not because Julie is victimized by naturalistic forces but because she falls victim to a naturalistic worldview. she appears to pursue her own destruction. ." Literature and Psychology 28 (1978): 145-150. According to Strind- berg. and women" (Preface 204). Strindberg renders motivation undecidable." In giving numerous motivations and causes for Julie's defeat." (205). the Unconscious and Strindberg's Miss Julie.org/terms .' He is in despair that his contemporary audience is too developed - i.12 Strindberg's comments. and she will not accept her "natural" destiny as woman and as aristocrat. the text itself can be read as an indictment of the naturalistic vision the preface claims the play celebrates.e.242. rational-to be still susceptible to suggestion" (148). Strindberg looks forward to the time when audiences are able to respond with "indifference" to "the brutal. as a naturalist. on the goals of the preface. like Julie's vestigial romanticism. perhaps even from the failure of naturalism as an effective aesthetic. argues that the critical preface suffers from a logical fallacy in that it assumes that "the fictional world is ruled by the same laws that rule in real life.jstor.

for example) and in literary works from Richardson to Lawrence. he seeks to beat it.. The uniqueness and fineness of the play reside in the way the desires of both Julie and Jean emerge spontaneously in reaction to each other and take forms that have decidedly destructive consequences. both characters believe they can. 472 / Alice Templeton The "tragic legacy of romanticism" (209). up to the very top" (231)-and so he is dedicated to its perpetuation. She may be alternately contemptible and pathetic. she pursues transformation through sex. Julie wants to abandon. This arrangement enables the play to emphasize the un- directed. as her treatment of her fiance and her dream about falling indicate. Further confounding any con- structive expression of her desire is Julie's dependence on the very privileges of sex and class identity that she denounces. As such he is both an encourage- ment and an adversary to Julie's revolutionary. yet finally inadequate explanations of her discontent. on its emotional tempo. Strindberg reverses the usual structure. her discontent is self-destructive. 57. 1973). the conflict between Julie as revolutionary and Jean as determinist motivates the entire action and language of the play. victimizing and victimized. Sex is the act by which. Rather than reject the system.55. Jean. at least temporarily. but she is profoundly discontented with conventional gender and class relations. is consonant with rebellion against nature. The idea of sexual pairing as deliverance from class oppression is a common one in folktales (Cinderella.118 on Tue. desire. who in a very different play might sympathize with Julie's predicament. With no program for change. if inarticulate. and because she has no satisfying means of ex- pression. 18 Apr 2017 07:41:43 UTC All use subject to http://about.. but it also threatens to expose his complicity in his own class oppression and his cruel role as sexual oppressor. Julie's roman- ticism offers Jean the opportunity of sexual conquest. paradoxically. and speak from complex unconscious motives. oppressive roles that are expected of her as an aristocratic woman: "Tonight we're all just having a good time. sex and suicide. Because her "revolution" lacks a method. This content downloaded from 117. Although the characters waver.org/terms . change roles as master and servant.242. but his response opposes hers. There's no question of rank" (224). and with subtle coaxing from Jean. In Birgitta Steene's words. Ironically. making his female character the discontented aristocrat who wishes to fall rather than the lower class victim who is helped up the social ladder by a fortunate marriage.jstor. at least for Midsummer's Eve. The sexual interlude is the play's symbolic center. In this sense she possesses "revolutionary" desire. as Strindberg defines it in the preface. to rise within it-"to get up."'14 '"Birgitta Steene. with no means of expression of her own beyond those rooted in class and gender. but in the play Julie rebels against the social systems of class and gender. legitimate their visions and accomplish their personal and class transformations. also feels trapped in the class system. the arbitrary. and with it a possible means up the social ladder. Jean is both the discon- tented servant who possesses an uneasy class consciousness and the play's central spokesman for social and biological determinism. The Greatest Fire: A Study of August Strindberg (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. impulsive and ill-defined though it may be. inexpressible quality of Julie's desire even as Strindberg provides multiple. The conflict between the two characters takes the form of a power struggle to control the symbolic significance of the major actions in the play. the play "lives.

Jean thus taunts Julie by reminding her of his sexuality. But she talks in her sleep" (227). 313-54. Jean appears to be the voice of reason and restraint. Jean is not a villain (337). and the Midsummer's Eve saturnalia contribute to the impulsiveness of the characters and lend the play the accidental. Jean resembles Iago. MISS JULIE / 473 While neither character is deliberately "political.118 on Tue." their struggle reveals them to be pawns moved by the political effects of their own language and actions. harshly realistic views of sex and of class difference constantly undercut yet strangely encourage Julie's desire to abandon her place in the traditional gender and class structure. she doesn't.55. who knows too well "the brutal. though Bentley points out that Othello neither resists nor suspects Iago's evil. the intoxicating odor of flowers.org/terms . I don't want to hurt your feelings. the half-light.jstor.242. as he corrects Julie's cruel observation that Christine probably snores: "No. ed. The Playwright as Thinker (New York: Harcourt. This content downloaded from 117. In the first half of the play. though in each case that aura has contrary philosophical and political significance. his fiancee. cynical. "Male and Female in August Strindberg. Bentley notes that Strindberg believed that Othello provided a model for dramatizing the most basic conflict of wills. and heartless spectacle that life offers" (205). According to Brustein. the naturalism that Jean professes is a self-interested passivity that protects him while it fixes a locus for Julie's desire. Also he rejects her compliments as "flattery" (226). 18 Apr 2017 07:41:43 UTC All use subject to http://about. circumstantial atmosphere characteristic of both tragedy and natu- ralistic literature." (225). Jean again calls attention to their sexual difference by saying. leading up to the offstage sexual interlude. But much as honest lago twists ap- pearances to reveal their seediest side. Jean drops the sexual insinuations that lead Julie to her downfall:15 Jean: Frankly. but I wonder if it's wise--I mean for you to dance twice in a row with the same partner. as aristocrat. the one sphere in his life in which she." a complete materialist who is more interested in the appearance of honor and in his own advancement than in true merit. "one person mentally struggling with another" (167). also enables him to display his sexuality in front of Miss Julie. Travis Bogard and William I. he seems to be the worldly naturalist celebrated in the preface. has no immediate privilege. "I'd have to ask you to leave for a minute. In addition. In the same way that he projects his sexuality in terms of his concern for Julie's reputation. Jean also reveals his aristocratic tastes and worldliness in the disguise of servility. Far from being the indifferent. explaining in formal language that "My natural modesty would not allow me to presume that you were "5See Robert Brustein. Oliver (New York: Oxford University Press. to her surprise he responds in French." in Modern Drama: Essays in Criticism. Jean is the "Elizabethan Naturalist come to life in the modern world. rational understanding of life's laws por- trayed in the preface. warning the foolish and haughty Miss Julie to protect her reputation. My black coat is hanging right here-. Miss Julie. Eric Bentley. Brace & World. But unlike Iago. Jean's calculated. the alcohol. When Julie compliments him in French. Especially since the people around here love to talk. That is. The presence of the sleeping Christine. Miss Julie (bridling): What do you mean? What kind of talk? What are you trying to say? [223] When Julie orders Jean to change out of his livery on this holiday. 1967). 1965).

Let's see who's right! Come on! (She gives him a long. Jean forces Julie to be the mistress she claims not to want to be: Miss Julie: Why don't you sit down? Jean: I wouldn't take the liberty in your presence. When Jean warns her not to "climb down. "We don't use that word around here" (233). As she orders him to kiss her hand. the play reveals Jean's stance to be far from disinterested. his acting ability." he replies. his show of cultivation renders the arbitrariness of class structure even more clear. Jean's and Julie's views of the lower class are at odds throughout the first section of the play. For Jean. love is seen more as a sickness to be cured. . By being all servant. than as an experience with any unique significance. sex will be the test of whose vision is "right. he warns Miss Julie that he is only a man.55. she must command him to be her equal." (226).118 on Tue. In fact. and by dancing with him more than once. Sex is simply a need. not an expression of complex desires and certainly not an experience particularly related to love. an inconvenience to be eliminated. Julie compromises her reputation as mistress of the estate. While Jean is the spokesman for naturalism in the play. Once again. Her challenge is as much a political one as it is sexual. Miss Julie: Not even if I ordered you? Jean: Of course I'd obey. Jean further inflames and fixes Julie's desire by implying that their sexual alliance is forbidden by the very rules of class structure that Julie longs to defy. When Julie asks Jean about his experiences with "love. but he also overstates his naturalistic view of sex. that he is "young." Julie replies.474 / Alice Templeton paying sincere compliments to someone like me ." and that it is "dangerous to play with fire" (232). steady look)" (230). His display of aristocratic language leads to other revelations about his travels.org/terms . not a matter of choice or will. [227] Ironically. and his exposure to upper class culture. depriving her of any possible redemption that could come from even so confused an attempt at emotional human connection. while Jean constantly insists that by dancing with the people. though the preface would lead us to think otherwise. Along with flaunting his sexuality and aristocratic polish. Not only does Jean at once deflect and intensify Julie's sexual desire by his over- stated allegiance to the "laws" of the class structure. and so encourages Julie's pursuit. 18 Apr 2017 07:41:43 UTC All use subject to http://about. Julie believes that on this Midsummer's Eve rank can be erased.. Jean denies her. and for that reason it is not a matter for which he is responsible." Not only is it a strategy that potentially allows him to advance materially and sexually and at the same time escape personal This content downloaded from 117. In his description of his adolescent attraction to Julie." his naturalism or her romanticism. his very servility to Miss Julie is the primary way he foils her attempt to dispense with class difference on Midsummer's Eve. Although his servility thwarts her desire to relate on a human rather than a class level. Thus after the sexual interlude when Julie begs him to say he loves her. Their difference in attitude toward the crowd again reveals the difference between his determinism and her revolutionary desire.jstor.242. sex is a drive. the play itself shows his stance to be an "unnecessary determinism. "I have a higher opinion of these people than you do.

despite their sexual and class differences. Julie begins to abandon her stance of class privilege. the play is subtle "in its insistence on how much both classes have in common. changeable. but his desire is expressed not by his acting on it but by his waiting for some predetermined moment to act: "I've never reached [that first branch] yet.242. however. [235] In a similar way his dream of climbing the tree and robbing the nest of its golden eggs seems romantic. are interchangeable in many ways: Julie drinks beer while Jean drinks wine. but the play repeatedly dem- onstrates the fallacy of social and sexual determinism. These shared qualities suggest that sexual and class differences are not natural and therefore determined. As Jean tells his story of growing up poor and longing for the beauty and wealth that lay inside the walls of the Count's estate. Jean trivializes Julie's desire. Strindbergian Drama. but are social and therefore. has pointed out that Jean's "strategy" is to "let the victim decide her own fall. Alf Sjoberg. As Declan Kiberd says. finally suggests that while gender and class may be social rather than natural constructions. 'But Jean's desire cannot be accurately called revolutionary. not a determination to change: . but someday I will-even if only in my dreams" (231). and their sexual mores are not significantly different. she becomes vulnerable to Jean's pretenses of serving her interests and to his pretense of being an aristocrat held back by the same class system that traps her.55."17 As Jean subtly taunts her with his sexuality. 55. she appeals to him on the level of "an equal" (233) to tell her who it was he loved. 17Quoted in Tdrnqvist.org/terms . It was just that you were a symbol of the absolute hopelessness of my ever getting out of the class I was born in. Though his story of escaping from the outhouse. suppressing its full expression and twisting her revolutionary desire into a conventional scenario of female sexual need and vulnerability."''6 The characters. viewing the Count's daughter from under a stinking weed pile. By refusing to engage in any relation except those defined by conventional sexual and class power relations. once 16Declan Kiberd. Following Jean's hints at his past experiences with love. both are equally capable of manipulating and abusing others. his knowledge of his situation inspires in him only lethargy. and attempting suicide out of love for her seems romantic enough. This content downloaded from 117. director of a 1949 production of Miss Julie. There was no hope of winning you. they are so deeply internalized in the language and behavior of both characters as to seem determined and fixed by nature. it becomes clear that Jean's description of his own desire for change and escape is as powerful a part of his seduction of Miss Julie as are his demonstrations of the arbitrariness of class distinctions. over which her class superiority gives her no power. . if only their pretensions to other ways of living. to some extent. The play. 1985).jstor. 40. MISS JULIE / 475 responsibility for his inaction and for Julie's demise. as is seen in the mistreatment of their fiances. 18 Apr 2017 07:41:43 UTC All use subject to http://about.118 on Tue. Jean's mask of romantic despair both lures Julie's revolutionary desire into action and ensures its failure. Men and Feminism in Modern Literature (London: Macmillan. When Julie abnegates her power in the conventional class system.

looking up at you on the rose terrace. she tries to reassert her class power but is harshly reminded of her own failing. The power struggle between Julie and Jean is not easily resolved because the two characters wish to carry out the seduction on their own very different terms. and thus he robs Julie of the symbolic. But she also cannot command respect from him as his lover. he refuses to speak of love: I'll tell you a thousand times-but later! Not now. political significance that might have affirmed or empowered her desire. like that of the preface. they battle over the meaning of Julie's suicide. his manhood and the malicious mob. so she now has only one way out of the situation that threatens her reputation with the people: according to Jean. 18 Apr 2017 07:41:43 UTC All use subject to http://about. [241] He even acknowledges that his story of wanting to die for her was only part of the story: "When I was lying in the onion beds. and he abandons his attitude of servility toward her. Julie clearly no longer commands deference from Jean as mistress of the house. Christine's room is not an option because Jean has already exposed Julie's insensitivity toward the working class when she tried to awaken Christine at the table. in fact.55.118 on Tue. let's keep our feelings out of this or we'll make a mess of everything. you can only run away" (239). is to appeal to the authority of naturalistic laws of sex and class structure . Above all. After their liaison Jean's tone and language greatly change. (He takes out a cigar. as Jean warns. it is only at the moment when the crowd is pressing toward the kitchen that Jean's determinism completely overpowers Julie's romanticism. He is able to convince her that just as in his boyhood he had only one way out of the lovely outhouse. though his motives are carefully disguised by his continual reference to the "natural" and "factual" necessities over which he has no control--namely.org/terms . Jean's strategy. In this way Jean succeeds in defining their sexual liaison as an act of desperate necessity. the sexual interlude does have political and social consequences. We have to look at this thing calmly and coolly. And not here. not Jean (and not Strindberg). appears both to "author" and to condemn the seduction. and. Though Jean insists on calling her "Miss Julie" as long as they are in the Count's house. In fact.jstor. Jean thus reduces love and desire to a "natural" sexual urge. like sensible people. As Julie becomes more disaffected with Jean's calculated coldness. and lights it. In the last half of the play the characters continue to struggle for control over the symbolic meaning of their sexual intimacy.) Now you sit there and I'll sit here. She is now more woman than aristocrat. Julie is driven into Jean's room by what appears to be "necessity. and we'll talk as if nothing had happened. Julie's "coming down" is accomplished not in her own terms but in Jean's. clips the end. her now-vul- This content downloaded from 117. He is willing to take advantage of Julie's sympathy and ultimate failure but not willing to take respon- sibility for his role in her seduction." and sexual union with Jean is robbed of any symbolic significance as an expression of desire broader than that of immediate sexual need. The irony and tragedy of the play reside in the fact that.476 / Alice Templeton his "romanticism" is revealed to be deterministic opportunism.242.thus naturalistic law. I-I'm telling you the truth now-I had the same dirty thoughts that all boys have" (244). "You can't fight them. at the end. but it does not bring the transformations that either character intends.

67. As Julie attempts to regain some power for herself. Furthermore. refusing to sympathize with Miss Julie and even reinforcing Jean's naturalistic worldview with her own brand of Christian determinism and classism. Have you ever seen any of the girls around here grab at a man like you did? Do you think any of the girls of my class would throw themselves at a man like that? I've never seen the like of it except in animals and prostitutes! . The Social and Religious Plays. significantly. not as the mistress of the house.. I'd love to see the whole of your sex swimming in a sea of blood just like that. '8Ward.org/terms . MISS JULIE / 477 garized sexuality. do you think a person in my position would have dared to look twice at you if you hadn't asked for it? [245] Although he vacillates between being brutal and being comforting. [259] Immediately after this outburst Julie turns to Christine for help and protection from Jean. A servant's a servant- Jean: And a whore's a whore! [244] When Julie tries again to assert her former power as aristocrat-"You lackey! You shoeshine boy! Stand up when I talk to you!" (245)-Jean denies any responsibility for the seduction and hurls half-truths at her: You lackey lover! You bootblack's tramp! Shut your mouth and get out of here! Who do you think you are telling me I'm coarse? I've never seen anybody in my class behave as crudely as you did tonight. he speaks openly as a man concerned with the material consequences the situation might offer him. Just as Jean expresses his disgust with Julie's sexuality.118 on Tue. she tries various attacks that might provide her with some position other than the one Jean's naturalistic worldview has put her in.242.55. your brains on that chopping block. Jean's change of tone re- inforces the reader's sense of the political. rather than speaking from his earlier role as a deferential servant who knows his place all too well. 18 Apr 2017 07:41:43 UTC All use subject to http://about. how I'd love to see your blood. This content downloaded from 117. I don't now. Christine is "cold and unmoved" (260). Don't you think she's got any feelings? Miss Julie: I thought so a while ago. the second section of Miss Julie is characterized by the growing sexual aggression of the characters toward each other. As John Ward has pointed out.jstor. so Julie viciously rages at Jean after he coldly beheads her bird: Oh. despite claims to the contrary by Jean and by the preface. throughout the last section of the play Jean treats Julie as an inferior woman.. most violent expression for the power struggle between Jean and Julie. coercive foundations of his naturalism. Jean also reminds her again of her upper-class insensitivity and selfishness: Jean: Why be miserable? Look at the conquest you've made! Think of poor Christine in there.18 It may be more accurate to say that sexually aggressive language provides the harshest.

like Jean. given that in sexual and class terms Strindberg identifies more with Jean than with Julie. Both Christine and Jean condemn Miss Julie for breaking the conventional sexual and class rules. Help me. according to Strindberg's preface. "Miss Julie. Command me.22 The preface supports this conclusion: "Miss Julie would take vengeance on herself . Julie's suicide is more than a display of an aristocratic code of honor. Richard Gilman. her self-destruction in some way assures her triumph over Jean's mean. 65. Oh. Straus and Giroux.118 on Tue. Julie turns to Jean to help her destroy herself: ." But blaming Christine for not being a "sister" to Julie seems extreme. but she also encourages Julie's death with her ideas of predestination and her belief in the paradox "the last shall be first. This content downloaded from 117.org/terms . upon learning that the Count has returned. Can't repent. For example. The ending of Miss Julie is the most troublesome part of the play for readers and audiences of Strindberg's drama. especially after the abuse Julie has aimed at Christine earlier in the play. For this reason. Do me this last favor. an ironic reversal of Julie's belittlement of Christine earlier in the play. At the end of the play. 1974). often conflicting interpretations of the manner and significance of Julie's turn toward suicide. 22See Brustein. You command me and I'll obey.. 21Lamm.55. I can't bring myself to do anything. Let me use your willpower." 112. Miss Julie" (264). "Male and Female. You know what I ought to do but can't force myself to do. Christine's Christian vision denies the fullness of Julie's human predicament as completely as Jean's naturalism warps Julie's desire into a scenario of sexual desperation. but not Miss Julie. . . Christine overwhelms Julie and her revolutionary desire with a determinism that says. can't die. 18 Apr 2017 07:41:43 UTC All use subject to http://about. Critics offer various. can't run away. can't stay. Jean.20 Lamm writes that the play "leaves us with the impression that [Julie's] suicide is not the result of clear deliberation but of a moment of fortuitous hysteria. The Making of Modern Drama (New York: Farrar. In this instance. naturalists "have banished guilt along with God" (209). Maurice Valency emphasizes that the end of the play focuses as much on Jean's destruction as on Julie's. [266] 19Ward.jstor. 1963). and both in their own ways reduce Julie's desire to one-dimensional need. "the servant Jean lives on.478 / Alice Templeton Ward argues that Christine's pietism is more responsible for Julie's death than Jean's coldness is... Save my honor." 338.19 not only does she prevent their escape by telling the stable boy not to let out any horses. 55. and because it is inspired by her aristocratic code of honor. Steene. 20Maurice Valency. Still. In contrast.. The Social and Religious Plays. The Flower and the Castle: An Introduction to Modern Drama (New York: Macmillan. and I'll obey like a dog. too. 102-103. because of that inherited or acquired sense of honor" (209) possessed by the upper class. the play provides for more complex meanings than the preface indicates. can't live ."21 Other critics conclude that Julie's suicide is both believable and deliberate.242. The Greatest Fire. materialistic existence. 278. who cannot live without honor" (210). I'm so tired. save [the Count's] name. "That's how things are.

given the scheme of things that Jean has so convincingly impressed on them both. is what she "ought to do. 18 Apr 2017 07:41:43 UTC All use subject to http://about.242. willful. With these final words of the play. This content downloaded from 117. a victim.118 on Tue. She is. In The Critical Difference. the manner of Julie's suicide does clearly make Jean and the naturalistic vision he stands for culpable. In this way Julie's death breaks the hold of the naturalistic worldview. The play's critique of naturalism is thus larger than any one character's representation of it. 23Barbara Johnson. naturalistic facts of social and sexual difference? Or does the play present for our analysis an ideological power struggle.--Go!" (267). equipped only to be complicitous in her own destruction? In the preface. x. 1980)." but she has no conviction either to do it or not to do it. audiences who. razor in hand. Though Jean himself is hesitant and weak. Julie turns toward the barn. Regardless of her degree of consciousness or willfulness in implicating Jean in her death. it is not a code that personally or inwardly moves her but rather one that she feels she "ought" to act on. might have harshly judged Julie had she lived on or had her suicide been purposely vindictive. and the characters are left with no choice but to see the logic through to its "horrible" end. Rather than being triumphant over Jean because of her finer sense of honor-rather than destroying herself in opposition to Jean-Julie destroys herself within the logic of the naturalistic worldview that Jean so effectively imposes on them both throughout the play.55. "What is often most fundamentally disagreed upon is whether a disagreement arises out of the complexities of fact or out of the impulses of power. through the characters' desperation. can symbolically censor that reductive. The Critical Difference: Essays in the Contemporary Rhetoric of Reading (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. he finally does give in to Julie's plea: "It's horrible! But there's no other way for it to end. but paradoxically it is only by Julie's destroying herself within the logic of a naturalistic worldview that the play. that neither character is particularly controlled. If Julie's suicide can be seen as motivated by an upper-class code of honor.jstor. or committed: they are equally exhausted and powerless."23 Johnson identifies the critic's dilemma in dealing with Miss Julie. According to Strindberg's prediction in the preface. Julie realizes. It is made clear at the end of the play. It is simply the course she should take. Perhaps more important than forcing Jean to play an actual role in her death is the fact that in a larger sense the very innocence of Julie's suicide ensures the triumph of her romantic worldview over Jean's naturalistic interpretation. therefore. understood as a whole.org/terms . pitifully reduced to a powerless servant at the first sound of the Count's voice through the speaking tube. MISS JULIE / 479 Suicide. the play's action seems to be propelled toward its tragic conclusion by the impulses of power on the part of both characters. like Christine.that result in Julie's tragedy. The naturalistic worldview that Jean so readily endorses as he seduces and then condemns Julie has reached a fatal conclusion. Jean's fear of the Count. However. will respond sympathetically to her predicament. a confrontation for which Julie is sadly un- prepared. Strindberg claims that it is the complicated facts of sexual and class difference-of nature . and Julie's hypnotic fantasy. finally fatal vision. Does the fatal struggle between Jean and Julie dramatize given. Barbara Johnson writes.

24"In the light of my reading of the play. by affirming sexist and classist power relations as natural. the play conveys not a degenerate falling woman. ineffectual slave. however. vul- nerability of one whose changing consciousness cannot create commensurate ex- pression and one whose desires are easily twisted against her own interests. Although her determination to fall is translated by the preface as determinism. It is. Her determination to satisfy her desires. This content downloaded from 117. would reduce women's revolutionary desire to a con- ventional scenario of female sexual desperation. 480 / Alice Templeton Both characters fall into the trap of naturalism which Jean has set to rationalize his own cruel opportunism. the play can be understood not as an indictment of Julie's misguided desires to rebel against nature but as an in- dictment of the social forces that waste her human worth. The play finally impresses on us the fruitlessness of her rebellion and of any revolution that is unable to construe power in a new way." The play leaves us not with a vision of determinism but with an understanding of the determination with which the characters engage in destructive sexual and class politics. the play can be read as an indictment of the naturalistic interpretation of those social forces. and sexual and class politics.118 on Tue. Her recklessness attests both to her igno- rance of self and world. but a woman who is beginning to move toward social and gender consciousness. Miss Julie is "a naturalistic tragedy. individual power. sometimes contemptible. and to her desperation. just as it is possible to read the play itself against those claims. 18 Apr 2017 07:41:43 UTC All use subject to http://about.24 it can also be read as an expression of Julie's utter discontent and her complete lack of alternate means of power or expression. Both Julie and Jean are reduced to caricatures in the end: he to the whimpering. possible and perhaps desirable to read the preface against Strindberg's naturalistic claims. leave Julie vulnerable to Jean's deterministic reduction of desire to vulgarized sexual need.org/terms . of course. a powerful and destructive ideology which. as well as against Jean's judgments of Julie. In the sense that the play depicts the waste brought about by a deterministic attitude toward human relations. Julie's actions are ultimately as misdirected and self-destructive as Jean's maintenance of class and gender systems. read against the preface. other than through conventional sexual and class politics.55. the preface is more complicated than its overt naturalistic claims would make it appear. though certainly the cost is much higher for Julie than for him. Most important. which are more likely satisfied through social and personal change. Read against the preface. It dramatizes the sometimes pitiable. and she to the female suicide ruined by sexual and social scandal. That is.jstor.242.