Animal Imagery In "Miss Julie" Essay

1377 words - 6 pages

August Strindberg was one of the first naturalist playwrights. Darwinism influenced the naturalists to perceive a person's fate as the product of blind external or biological forces, chiefly hereditary and environmental. By replicating observed details of environment, the artist would allow the audience a deeper understanding of the forces acting on characters. Miss Julie demonstrates the naturalistic idea that human beings are strictly products of the forces surrounding them - that "free will" and "choice" are illusions. In August Strindberg's play, Miss Julie, Strindberg's naturalistic view of human behavior is exemplified through the use of animal imagery.

The first and most utilized animal image Strindberg employs is the dog. Jean describes to Kristin how Miss Julie treated her ex-fiancé the night they broke up. "She made him leap over her riding crop, the way you teach a dog to jump." A dog is man's best friend because it is an extremely loyal animal; a living, breathing, belonging who is obedient to its owner. Having Jean compare what Miss Julie did to her ex-fiancé with what someone would do to a dog demonstrates Miss Julie's drive to be the dominant one or the master. Miss Julie herself, when telling Jean about her life, refers to this incident similarly, "Just so he'd be my slave." Of course, before she commits suicide, this is ironically contradicted when Miss Julie begs Jean "Order me, and I'll obey like a dog!" Miss Julie feels that her social status is far superior to that of Jean, and that their relationship could be compared to that of a master and his dog. Miss Julie says that Jean is "a dog who wears my collar." The dog imagery in the play is also used to demonstrate the difference in social classes. When Miss Julie's dog, Diana, is impregnated by the gatekeeper's mutt, she is so outraged that she wants the puppies aborted via some poisonous concoction she has Kristin prepare. "Oh just some filthy muck Miss Julie wants for Diana." Kristin demonstrates Miss Julie's disgust when she says "She who nearly had that bitch of hers shot for running after the gatekeeper's mutt." The sexual tryst between the dogs also represents the sexual affair between Jean and Miss Julie, and how they mutually desire one another, while at the same time look down upon one another. Jean looks down on Miss Julie for being surprisingly easy to obtain, while Miss Julie looks down on Jean for being a servant of hers and of a lower social class.

In the play, Miss Julie says that she would like to have Jean "put down like an animal." Miss Julie feels that Jean is a sick animal and deserves to die. Like the imagery of the dog, Strindberg also uses the imagery of a horse. Jean says that, "A dog may lie on the Countess's sofa, a horse may have its nose stroked by a young lady's hand, but a common drudge!" In that quote Jean suggests that a servant is unable to socialize with the upper class, while dogs and horses are. ...

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