Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 301
Miss Julie, a headstrong young woman, the daughter of a count. She has derived from her mother a hatred of men and of women’s subservient role. As the drama begins, the household servants are scandalized over the circumstances of Miss Julie’s broken engagement: She had made her fiancé jump over her horsewhip several times, giving him a cut with the whip each time, and he had left her. Subsequently, she takes advantage of her father’s absence to join the holiday dancing of the servants. She makes love to her father’s not unwilling valet, Jean, and then shifts helplessly and impractically from one plan of action to another: running off alone, running off with the valet, a suicide pact when they become tired of each other, and taking his fiancée, who naturally objects to being deserted, with them. When Jean kills Miss Julie’s pet finch, at her command, her love turns to hate. Then, ecstatic at the thought of freedom through suicide, she takes her lover’s razor and leaves the room.
Jean, Miss Julie’s lover and her father’s valet. His first suggestion is that they go to Como, Italy, to open a hotel. Later, he takes Miss Julie his razor and indicates it as one answer to her plea for advice. The return of his master, the count, reduces him again to the menial attitudes of a servant.
Christine, a cook and Jean’s fiancée. She loves him and does not intend to lose him to Miss Julie. She refuses Miss Julie’s offer to go along with them to Como and announces as she leaves for church that she has spoken to the stable men about not letting anyone have horses until after the count’s return.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 629
Jean is the ambitious valet who engages in sexual relations with Julie. Although he is a servant, he longs for a higher social position. He tells Julie of his desire to open a hotel and become a count like her father. In his discussion with her, he reveals a taste for fine food and good wine as well as a dream of climbing a tree, a symbol of his desire to move up in the world. It is clear, however, that his actions will keep him a servant for life. He has become engaged to Kristine, the cook, further cementing his place in the lower classes and, when he and Miss Julie sleep together, he is primarily concerned with the fact that, because of his actions, he may lose his position as. a servant—the very station he says he wants so desperately to leave.
Although Jean freely insults Julie after their sexual encounter, apparently no longer seeing himself as her inferior, when Kristine insults Julie, Jean tells her she must be respectful towards her mistress Although Jean is brave enough to steal wine from his master, when the Count returns, ringing for his boots and coffee, Jean immediately returns to subservience, leading the audience to doubt that his ambitions will ever turn into reality.
Miss Julie is the play's main character. She does not understand her place in society as an aristocrat or as a woman; her confusion and lack of understanding is the primary focus of the play. When the audience first sees her, she has been dancing with the servants at their Midsummer's Eve festivities when it would be more appropriate for her to be visiting relatives with her father, the Count. During the course of the play, she spends most of her time with Jean, her father's valet. In her conversations with Jean, Julie alternates between giving him commands and trying to convince him to treat her as an equal In order that the other servants will not see her with Jean, however, she hides with him in his room. While they are locked in together, the two engage in sexual intercourse.
Julie not only rebels against her place as an aristocrat, but—having given in to animal passion, to sex without love—she has revealed a confused gender identity as well. Respectable women at this time did not engage m such behavior. Julie also reveals that her mother raised her as a boy, which contributes to her gender confusion. At the end of the play, although Julie is ashamed of her actions, she has really learned nothing. As in the beginning, she still alternates between seeing herself as an aristocrat and as an equal of the servants. At the end of the play, she commands Jean to order her to commit suicide.
Engaged to Jean, Kristine is the Count's cook. Unlike Jean and Julie, she recognizes her place in society and stays within what she considers proper bounds. Traditional in every way, she is also extremely religious. Julie's actions appall Kristine from the beginning, but when she discovers that Julie has slept with Jean, Kristine says she can no longer work for people who have no sense of decency. She does not show such anger at Jean, however, and tells him that, in fact, his indiscretion with Julie is not as bad as if he had committed a similar act with a fellow servant. In Kristine's view, it is only Julie who has completely debased herself and is so deserving of disdain. Kristine cuts off Julie and Jean's only possibility of escape when she announces that she will tell the groom not to let any of the horses out, thus revealing that her loyalty is to her master, the Count.