How far is the main character of Miss Julie responsible for her own downfall?

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At first glance, Miss Julie is completely responsible for her own downfall. Every action she takes, each more nonsensical than the last, causes her to walk out of the kitchen seemingly infatuated with the idea of suicide. However, as we tend to learn from all literature and theater that tackles...

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At first glance, Miss Julie is completely responsible for her own downfall. Every action she takes, each more nonsensical than the last, causes her to walk out of the kitchen seemingly infatuated with the idea of suicide. However, as we tend to learn from all literature and theater that tackles the subject, there is something overtly deterministic about the actions of aristocrats. Miss Julie is every bit as much a servant to the established social order as is Jean, the only difference being that Miss Julie resents servitude profoundly and overtly while Jean simply wants to get a step up.

Miss Julie has been raised in an environment that has nurtured a deep, passionate, and genuine hatred for men, and Jean is scarcely an exception. Her excitement for being with him is merely the novelty of disobedience, a way of further angering the patriarchal structure that has trapped her. Despite her best efforts, however, angering the power structure, or perhaps merely mildly annoying it, is truly the extent of her ability. She is incapable of changing her circumstances. Even escape seems impossible. Every frenzied plan that she makes with Jean deteriorates in terms of practicality and effect even as she conceives them, with each result seeming as useless and banal as the last.

The grasping-at-straws nature of her planning leads up to perhaps the most surreal act of defiance of all, insisting that Jean murder her pet bird. Perhaps she thinks that this act will galvanize her resolve or will make her despair finally heard, but once again all imagined paths from this action are proven to be illusory, and she is left only with familiar, unbridled hatred.

This question is interesting because it can be argued, from a somewhat radical feminist viewpoint, that the reason that she makes all of these impetuous, hysterical and even violent choices is that she wants to be responsible. Every action that she has committed has been an attempt to disrupt the lives of those who would trap her in the web of aristocracy and patriarchal rule. The reaction to these acts, however, from lashing her fiance with a horse whip to giving herself to Jean, are met by the offended party simply and figuratively throwing their hands in the air and walking away. Irritated, frustrated, but not disrupted, not moved.

Miss Julie's suicide is not suicide at all in her eyes, but martyrdom. The act will land a blow against the patriarchy as it will be an escape that they cannot ignore. Miss Julie is responsible, and in a perverse way, her responsibility is a victory. Though Strindberg himself shows an obvious resistance to feminism in much of his work, such ideas can be countered with this lens.

This is all a matter of perspective, however. Whether you choose to look at this narrative as the story of Miss Julie fighting tooth and nail for any form of autonomy or as the story of a woman who is merely hysterical and impulsive, she is subject to her own choices, despite a strong societal influence.

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In Miss Julie, August Strindberg has created a character whose fate is shaped by her inborn characteristics as well as her environment and the actions of others. Her headstrong, willful nature was not moderated in her upbringing; her mother raised her more as a boy than as a girl. On the surface, she initially acquiesces to the conventional approach to her future, as she gets engaged. However, she makes a number of bad decisions which have even worse consequences. While a brief sexual liaison with a servant might be overlooked in the long run, Julie allows her fantasy to spin out of control as she imagines running off with Jean.

Nevertheless, Jean also bears some responsibility. He goads Julie into believing they have a future together, although he is already engaged and is clearly more interested in her financial resources. He provides her with the razor and encourages her to take her own life.

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In the preface of the play Miss Julie, August Strindberg specifies that a combination of factors in the birth and upbringing of Miss Julie have played a role in her mental state.

her mother's primary instincts, her father raising her incorrectly, her own nature, and the influence of her fiancé on her weak and degenerate brain

This description comes with several implications. The playwright mentions that Miss Julie's brain is already "weak and degenerate," and that the variables of her particular development merely made her brain even more weak and degenerate than what it already is. This is a significant pointer, because it shows that the author intends for Julie to be solely responsible for her actions, and, as such, should be held accountable for her choices.

Moreover, the fact that Julie's mother influenced her daughter's behavior could be indicative that both women are or were alike; that perhaps both were what would be called "hysterical." "Hysterical" women during the 1800's, and until the rebuttal of the condition as it was then described in 1952, were often diagnosed after their uncotrollable and unorthodox social behavior, often associated with an unfulfilled or a corrupted sexual desire.

Conclusively, if Julie and her mother were both this way, then there is no doubt that Miss Julie is simply a victim of fate, for she is her own worst enemy. Therefore, instead of making the necessary analysis to change her life, Julie merely allowed her weaknesses to control her, thus producing her own downfall.

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