Term Paper: Dramatic Literature in August Strindberg

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[. . .] The prominence of the door in the rear, the door that leads outside, suggests the degree to which the kitchen itself is a gateway into the house and for some out of the house. Julie ends the play by walking out through that door. Jean opens the play by entering through that door, carrying the riding boots. The door and the people using it thus frame the play and convey a sense of entering and exiting at the same time.

The social structure in which Jean and Miss Julie live is referred to over and over as something from which they must escape if they are ever to breach the walls of social class and be together. For that matter, this would also be the only way that Julie could escape from her sense of shame, though in fact she can never escape from it and would rather be destroyed than either live with it or try to escape, an act that is beyond her. Jean and Julie discuss escape all night long, and Julie seems to be ready to escape, so long as Jean orders her to do so, until the Count returns and dispels even that illusion. He is brought up again and again during the argument over whether the two should or could run away and open a hotel.

The social structure is not the only source of difference between Miss Julie and Jean, and Strindberg discusses issues of sex and social class in his introduction to the play. He describes Jean as a man who is rising in the world, and in the course of the play Jean does indeed indicate a strong desire to rise in the world even when he admits doubts as to his being able to do so. Sometimes he is very self-deprecating about his ambition, as when he is telling Julie about the time when he was young and saw her from afar: "A dog can lie on the Countess's sofa, a horse can have his nose patted by a young lady's hand, but a servant -- oh, I know -- now and then you find one with enough stuff in him to get ahead in the world, but how often?" (Strindberg 74). Jean seems here to be saying he has no chance of succeeding, but he does not speak this way most of the time and is clearly playing a part in the way he tells this story to Julie. He admits embellishing his story, and Julie seems to see it this way as well: "You're a charming storyteller" (Strindberg 75).

The opportunistic element in Jean's character is described by Strindberg in the introduction: "When Miss Julie says she assumes the lower classes feel oppressed from above, Jean naturally agrees since it is his intention to win sympathy, but he quickly changes his attitude when he realizes that it is more to his advantage to distance himself from the 'rabble'" (Strindberg 56). Strindberg sees Jean as a man who will not allow anything to sway him from achieving all that he can, and his behavior toward the events of this night demonstrate this. Miss Julie is deeply affected by what has happened and also deeply fearful. She will not be able to let go of these feelings or to escape from the consequences. She is bound to the past, a failing of her class. The defining moment for her and her father is when her mother started the fire years before. This act of defiance was in keeping with her mother's general behavior, and it would be attributed to the fact that she was from a lower class rather than to any real sense of indignation on her part at the way she was treated.

The production will make use of the set and the props to convey distinctions between the classes and between the sexes, represented in both cases primarily by Miss Julie and Jean. The lighting should reflect source lighting in an old kitchen, with added light from the door at the rear and from the front where windows are supposed to be. The effect is to place what happens in the kitchen under an overhead light, as if watching an experiment or observing something that the individuals do not want observed but cannot hide away.

Works Cited

Strindberg, August. Five… [END OF PREVIEW]

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