The Breaking of Rules in Miss Julie

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Throughout Strindberg’s Miss Julie, the idea of breaking rules is thoroughly looked at. Most characters in the play are involved in the breaking of rules, especially Jean and Miss Julie. There are various reasons as to why these characters decide to break the rules and disregard society’s expectations, which leads to many conflicts and gets the characters in trouble within their society and household. Strindberg showcased this situation of social instability in order to analyze the state of different people of different classes. These people (e.g. Jean), have been “hardened” by life, while people like Miss Julie have been pampered all their life and are somewhat unprepared to face the real outside world. In the society where this play is set, there are many rules, which people must follow. These rules are all tightly linked with class, and how people of different classes should interact with each other. Throughout the play, three main areas are looked at where rules are being broken. These include the interaction between classes, the breaking of trust in relationships, and sex.

Miss Julie is largely a depiction of how class systems are supposed to work in the time it was written. There are different levels of class in this household. There is the Count and the mistress, Miss Julie, which are seen as the high class. Within this high-class, there is a division between the Count and Miss Julie. This division would usually be because of the fact that the Count is older and is Miss Julie’s father. But for me, the split comes because of the fact that the Count handles and manages all the money, and consequently, money = power. Ultimately, what Jean wants is Miss Julie’s (or the Count’s) money to open his hotel. But Miss Julie is only able to obtain the money by stealing. Therefore the Count has more power in this society than Miss Julie. The other class is the servants’. Again, inside the servant’s class, there are some splits. Jean is a butler; therefore he gets to go upstairs, and gets to interact directly with the Count. This makes Jean of higher class within the servants. On the other hand, Kristin simply cooks, so she has less responsibilities and interaction with the Count and mistress. It is important to understand that the play is set in midsummer’s eve, the longest day of the year. The servants get this night off, and are able to go out and drink themselves to sleep. This means that they (the servants) will be out of control for the night, which may be a reason as to why Jean may have broken the rules and slept with Miss Julie – because he may have seen the midsummer’s eve atmosphere as an excuse to let go and do what he wants. Of course, it could be argued that what he wants is to go up in the class system, and he sees Miss Julie as a way to increase his social status.

Throughout the play, the order of class in society is constantly changing; one second with the mistress being in control, and the next the servant is controlling the mistress. This happens several times, and at the time, the audience found this unthinkable and downright wrong. The play is set in the house of the Count. The Count has a daughter, Miss Julie. It is understood that Miss Julie’s mother, the Count’s wife, had been against the idea of men overpowering women. In fact, she was for the idea of women overpowering men. In page 124, it is shown what the Countess did to the order of men/women – “men were set to do women’s work, and women to do men’s”. This is seen as obscure, crazy, and even outrageous, especially at the time that the play was set. The Countess had power of the people that worked for her, and apparently she even had power over the Count himself in order for this to happen. It is seen that Miss Julie has inherited this type of women-power behavior; by the way that she treats men. Kristin makes a comment on the way that Miss Julie treated her ex-fiancé. “[Miss Julie and her ex-fiancé] were in the stable yard one evening and the...
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