"In an attempt to usurp the male role and status, a female person is bound to fall. At the same time, accepting her own feminine  position, entitles tragic suffering." Discuss the above opinion...

"In an attempt to usurp the male role and status, a female person is bound to fall. At the same time, accepting her own feminine  position, entitles tragic suffering."

Discuss the above opinion with reference to Miss Julie by August Strindberg.

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Several kinds of role reversals are happening in August Strindberg's Miss Julie; among them is the consistent attempts by the protagonist (Miss Julie) to, as you say, "usurp the...role and status" of the men in her life. Unfortunately for her, Miss Julie is destined to fail both as a woman who assumes a male role and as a woman in the role society expects her to play.

From the beginning of her life, Miss Julie was destined to have difficulties figuring out who and what she was supposed to be. Though she was born into an aristocratic family, she knows they only achieved their nobility through sexual corruption. Though her father was an aristocrat, he married a common woman and then allowed her to take control of the estate. She up-ended the traditional roles of men and women by forcing the men on the estate to serve the women. She transferred these "odd" beliefs and instilled a hatred of men in her daughter, Miss Julie.

All of these things served to give Miss Julie mixed messages, at best, about what the expectations of a woman of a certain class are, and she lives her life in a way that overtly demonstrates that confusion.

She treats her fiance as an animal to be tamed and loses him. She tries to assert her authority over her father's valet, Jean, and ends up being in abject despair when he obeys her command to kill her bird. Time after time, Miss Julie fails in her attempts to assume the dominant role (trainer, seducer, owner) which traditionally belonged to men.

At the same time, she is unable to fully accept her role as a woman: docile, compliant, and therefore subservient. In the end, she begs Jean (a mere servant) to command her to kill herself. This is an apt picture of how Miss Julie cannot win. No matter which approach to life she takes--willing follower of an edict given by a man, even a servant whose status is beneath her, or aggressive female issuing orders to a male, even an order which would end in her death--she loses.

Her relationship with the valet, Jean, is the most striking evidence of the inevitability of her "tragic suffering." After he kills her bird, which she commanded him to do, of course, she rants:

Oh, I'd love to see the whole of your sex swimming in a sea of blood just like that. I think I could drink out of your skull. You think I loved you because my womb hungered for your seed. Bear your child and take your name!—Come to think of it, what is your name anyway? I've never heard your last name. You probably don't even have one. I'd be Mrs. Doorkeeper or Madame Floorsweeper. You dog with my name on your collar—you lackey with my initials on your buttons!

Miss Julie is clearly torn between her desire to be loved by men and her desire to control them, her attraction to them and her repulsion for them, her interest in maintaining her aristocratic position and her love for someone who holds a position she disdains. 

The quote to which you refer clearly identifies Miss Julie's fall when she tries to assume a position which is not hers to take, something we see her do throughout the play. The tragic suffering is the result of her implied obedience even to the unspoken command of a male servant (when Jean hands her the razor) and stems from her forced acceptance of her role as a woman. 

As a woman who attempts to thwart the stereotypes of men and power, Miss Julie fails. As a woman who is ultimately forced to accept her role as a subservient woman, Miss Julie also fails. Her death is a tragedy.

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Miss Julie

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