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Miss Julie | Study Guide

August Strindberg

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Miss Julie | Quotes


Tonight Miss Julie is crazy again, perfectly crazy.

Jean, Section 1 (Opening to Miss Julie and Jean Dancing)

The opening lines of the play reveal much information. First, Miss Julie is characterized as unstable and out of control at times. In the lines that follow, Jean and Christine discuss Miss Julie and her behavior patterns. Audiences learn of her broken engagement. Although they may see Jean and Christine as gossipy servants, audiences realize what the two have to say about Miss Julie will have importance in the story about to unfold.


She was "training" him ... She made him leap over her riding whip, the way you teach a dog to jump.

Jean, Section 1 (Opening to Miss Julie and Jean Dancing)

Jean describes Miss Julie's behavior toward her fiancé, who followed her commands, but then broke the whip and disappeared. Jean's recounting of the incident not only describes Miss Julie's need for dominance but also his own acts of eavesdropping and gossiping. It sets the scene for much questionable personal and sexual behavior to follow and foreshadows the shift of dominance at the play's end.


Diana sneaked out with the gatekeeper's mongrels and now something is wrong.

Christine, Section 1 (Opening to Miss Julie and Jean Dancing)

Christine tells Jean she is preparing some foul-smelling dog food. Diana, Miss Julie's pampered, pure-bred dog, snuck out of the house and got herself involved with mixed-breed dogs. Diana's situation foreshadows Miss Julie's similar actions—the aristocratic countess becomes involved sexually with the lower-class servant. The result of the coupling is catastrophic.


She doesn't take proper care of herself. I might even say she's lacking in refinement.

Jean, Section 1 (Opening to Miss Julie and Jean Dancing)

In an instance of situational irony (in which what happens is the opposite of what is expected to happen), the servant is judging and evaluating the young noblewoman. He would prefer Miss Julie act according to her correct position so he can act according to his. He is accurate in that she cares not at all for "refinement," and he senses her crossing the lines of behavior can endanger them all when others make judgments, for judgments are bound to occur.


I want to dance with one who knows how to lead, so that I am not made ridiculous.

Miss Julie, Section 1 (Opening to Miss Julie and Jean Dancing)

Miss Julie expresses ideas that can be taken literally in dance but also have larger meanings. She gives herself physically to someone she thinks, from the false image he projects of himself, can actually dominate her and give her a position in the world. She lacks the confidence he displays, and her limited self-awareness leads her to think she can avoid ridicule in his arms, when in fact society will condemn her all the more.


My taste is so simple that I prefer it to wine.

Miss Julie, Section 2 (Pantomime to Ballet)

In what might be called "slumming" in modern speech, Miss Julie makes a point of not drinking the wine, which Jean claims he knows about from his work training. Instead she takes a bottle of beer from him in an act of false solidarity with his lower-class position. She has been raised in a confused way to mix the classes without caring what others will say and boasts in the kitchen of how "simple" her tastes are.


You are an aristocrat, I think.

Miss Julie, Section 2 (Pantomime to Ballet)

Miss Julie claims to scorn her aristocratic background because she has been raised in an unhappy, chaotic way without real guidance about who she is. Jean has what appears to be a French name and has learned some basic French from his work. He is beginning to pose and play the seducer. Miss Julie cannot recognize anyone's real class and falls directly into his plan once she has signaled to him that she is ready to be taken in and used by him.


Life, men, everything—just a mush that floats on top of the water until it sinks, sinks down!

Miss Julie, Section 2 (Pantomime to Ballet)

Miss Julie tells Jean her disturbed view of life. She has dreamed she is on top of a high column and must descend into the unknown. She claims she must fall to find a place for herself, while the imagery closely foreshadows her actual destruction once she opens herself to those below her in the established social order.


It must be a dreadful misfortune to be poor.

Miss Julie, Section 2 (Pantomime to Ballet)

Miss Julie lives much of her life in a fantasy, pretending to be someone other than who she is. Raised in a mixed world of privilege and deliberate deprivation, she has never really done without anything, other than in her imagination of how others live. She patronizes Jean and Christine from her place above them and thus invites others to help bring her down because her naive attitude marks her as childish and immature.


The mob is always cowardly. And in such a fight as this there is nothing to do but to run away.

Jean, Section 2 (Pantomime to Ballet)

When the noisy chorus of farm folk are about to enter the kitchen, singing a suggestive song, Jean takes advantage of the opportunity to lure the gullible Miss Julie into his bedroom. Thematically, August Strindberg's theory of the "battle of the brains" speaks strongly about the weakness of any thought arising from a mob of the uninformed—in this instance the farm folk. He always favored a radical individual view. Here Jean's words foreshadow what he will try to do later when faced with the consequences of his and Miss Julie's actions. However, neither he nor Miss Julie can run away or fight the mob.


Above all, no sentimentality, or everything will be lost. We must look at the matter in cold blood, like sensible people.

Jean, Section 3 (Reappearance from Bedroom to Next Morning)

The mention of "cold blood" foreshadows the violent acts that will take place later in the play, but Jean's words ring false, for he has been filling his speech with empty, sentimental language that he senses will lead Miss Julie into his arms and his power. He has her now where he wanted her, or thought he wanted her. Given his limited education, intellect, and strength of character, he would hardly be a person on whom to depend in a crisis, especially one he has initiated.


What horrible power drew me to you? The attraction which the strong exercises on the weak—the one who is rising on one who is falling?

Miss Julie, Section 3 (Reappearance from Bedroom to Next Morning)

Strindberg often blurs the lines of battle. Miss Julie now feels she is the weaker of the two, but by the end of the play she will act more decisively than Jean, who falls back into his servant mentality. Strindberg's works all deal with power struggles of weak and strong, but often it is not a simple matter to determine who is weak and who is strong. Nor are such characterizations lasting or final.


You lackey love, you mistress of a menial—shut up and get out of here! You're the right one to ... tell me I am vulgar.

Jean, Section 3 (Reappearance from Bedroom to Next Morning)

Such violence and hatred both physical and emotional have been building throughout the play, from the first sparks of the initial conversation. These emotions finally break out as each character shows their truer colors, not the facades created from the sentimental stories they have been trading back and forth. Each character insults the other at their weakest point, but the catharsis does not lead to a better place or to any chance at reconciliation. Instead, it ensures that the tragic conclusion of the play will soon arrive.


I don't want to stay in this house any longer, with people for whom it is impossible to have any respect.

Christine, Section 4 (Christine's Reappearance to End)

Christine plays the role of an important observer of the entire drama. She sees the emptiness of her previous "love" for Jean as misplaced and does not waver in her faith. At this point, Strindberg presents her somewhat more positively, at least by contrast, and enables her to leave the poisonous atmosphere. Indeed, she is the only one of the three who has the strength of purpose—probably coming from both jealousy and religious faith—to leave on her own. She is characterized as rather lumpish and deluded by Jean's behavior but with no ambitions to rise above her class. She does her best within her limits. She does not represent a "big brain" but rather the ordinary level of unthinking humanity.


I no longer believe in anything. Nothing! Nothing at all!

Miss Julie, Section 4 (Christine's Reappearance to End)

Before Miss Julie takes the final step to escape from her situation as the play ends, she first must acknowledge she no longer has the false romantic ideals that led her into Jean's power. Although she made herself believe fantasies, she did not act creatively, for they were losing battles in the struggle of the wills of two people unfit for a new way of life. She and Jean are tied to false images of the past, so when she perceives her situation as it will appear to others, she can only rid herself of ideals and see things as they really have been.

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