The Illusion of Freedom in Miss Julie
August Strindberg’s Miss Julie is a naturalistic play which deals with the themes of love, lust, and power struggles between social classes and genders. Being a naturalistic play, Miss Julie deals with the upbringing of and the environment surrounding the two main characters, Julie and Jean, and how these factors affect their motivations. As with the convention in naturalism, the two main characters would have no real control over their fates and instead be subjugated to hereditary and environmental forces. Julie, being of aristocratic descent, seemed to have complete freedom. She had access to the best of luxuries and yet could heavily interact with the servants, such as participating in their Midsummer Eve celebration and dancing with Jean, without severe consequences other than some gossip among the servants. However, Julie’s gender and upbringing seems to be a great disadvantage and hinders her freedom. Raised by her mother to act like a man and yet despise men and subsequently herself, Julie became what Strindberg refers to as a “man-hating half-woman” (page 60), though this upbringing allowed Julie to ignore the social norms of her time and assert her dominance upon male characters (her fiancé and Jean), it is also responsible for her eventual suicide which was implied in the end of the play. The illusion of Julie’s supposed freedom is revealed throughout the play, with Jean holding power over her during a significant portion of the play and her father, the Count, being an absent, but nevertheless imposing presence throughout the play, especially in the end. Jean is diametrically opposite to Julie in his heredity, being of common descent and a male, although Jean is well travelled and possesses a degree of sophistication in his speech and manners. He has access to little resources other than his own ambitions and determination. Jean dreams vaguely of someday opening a hotel and using the profits and prestige...
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