In the play Miss Julie, the title character at first scorns religion. Why then does she desire to have her sins forgiven at the end?
Miss Julie is an important work in both naturalist and feminist literature. Written by August Strindberg in 1888, it concerns an aristocratic woman who desires sexual and personal freedom from her socially restricted lifestyle.
In the beginning of the play, it is clear that Miss Julie has no regard for religion or, in fact, anything other than her own interests. As she begins to open up, we see that she was irreparably damaged by her mother, who taught her to hate men while still being subservient (as a woman) to them, as well as being sexually attracted to them. Miss Julie's yearning for escape and fun leads to a sexual encounter with the footman, John; first she is overjoyed, and then ashamed, unable to reconcile her feelings. In contrast, John's lover Christine is disgusted with Miss Julie, but also complacent over her actions; in Christine's eyes, judgement comes to all through the hand of God. Miss Julie is confused:
Christine: Yes, that I will, and I'll come home with forgiveness, and for you too; the Redeemer suffered and died on the cross for all our sins, and if we go to Him with faith and a contrite spirit then He will take all our guilt on Himself.
Julie: Do you believe that, Christine?
Christine" That's my living faith, as true as I stand here, and that's my faith from a child, that I've kept ever since I was young, and where sin overflows there grace overflows as well.
Julie: Ah, if I had your faith! Ah, if!
(Strindberg, Miss Julie, archive.org)
While Christine is unhappy with events, she is also certain that judgement and even forgiveness will come to all if they embrace God. Miss Julie, on the other hand, wishes to have her sins wiped clean but has no foundation on which to believe; she wants to return to the time before her impulsive tryst so that she will not be humiliated before John -- who is her social inferior -- and her father, who she fears. Her refusal to accept Christine's religious advice leads to her downfall in the final lines of the play.