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How Does Strindberg Use Exaggerated Barriers In Social Class To Make Meaning?

1292 words - 6 pages

In Miss Julie, August Strindberg depicts a tormented, sadomasochistic woman held captive by ingrained and inherent restrictions posed onto her by her aristocratic class. As she attempts to break free, her escapist tendencies cause various consequences to ensue, such as her eventual death. Other characters present also engage in the same escapist desires, especially present in Jean’s longing to advance his level in society. Such ideas end in disaster for any party involved. Strindberg manifests various character’s nonconformist ideas towards exaggerated barriers between social classes, such as those of Jean and Julie, to create themes on conformity and consequence.
As the play opens, Miss Julie is immediately shown to intermingle between various social classes. Jean says that, “Miss Julie’s running wild again. She’s gone crazy!” (Strindberg 11) This shows Julie’s tendency to break the barriers of social class. As Jean says “again,” it implies that Julie has broken the barriers multiple times. Jean also states that “As soon as she [Julie] sets eyes on me she rushes over and asks to dance…” (Strindberg 12) This statement clearly depicts Julie’s eagerness and willingness to cross the restrictions put on her. Jean’s surprise at Julie’s actions also shows Julie’s actions are very uncouth in regard to societal expectations. Such expectations are also seen when Kristine says “She [Diana] sneaked out with the gamekeeper’s mutt and got knocked up. Miss Julie just won’t have it!” (Strindberg 14) The dog, Diana, symbolizes Julie, as a person as well as her desires to defect from societal barriers. The dog coupled with a mongrel dog, much as her mistress doesn’t care about the class of others. Yet, this comes off as very hypocritical as Miss Julie will not accept that her dog has mingled with one beneath her class, yet Julie does it openly. Julie clearly remains unfazed about the walls present between her and Jean.
After the party, Miss Julie expresses her true desires for Jean through her various flirtatious actions and her symbolic dream. As Jean alludes to gossip by the servants at the party, Julie calls Jean a “Don Juan perhaps? Or a Joseph?” (Strindberg 24) This allusion to Joseph brings the tale of Potiphar’s wife, who tempted a young slave and accused him of rape — clearly dropping below her appropriate social class. Julie is implying that she is Potiphar’s wife, a dangerous temptress who does not see class as an issue when it comes to love. However, she suddenly asserts her power over Jean as she “boxes his ear.” (Strindberg 24) Such action shows that Julie is still under the influence of her ingrained class and can not truly escape the barriers imposed. In Julie’s and Jean’s dreams, both show their desire to cross their class barriers. As Julie describes her dream as she is “sitting on top of a pillar and can’t see how to get down,” (Strindberg 22) she is clearly referencing the walls around her imposed by her social class. She wishes to drop below...

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