Miss Julie

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The plot combines sexual and social clashes. Miss Julie is the 25-year-old daughter of the widowed landowner of a large estate in the Swedish countryside. Her father’s weak nature has taught her to despise men; her emancipated mother taught her to dominate and tyrannize them; her former fiance filled her with egalitarian notions that temper her arrogance; her strong libido checks her masculine inclination; her unconscious drives lead her toward dirt, degradation, and death.

The action has Julie flirt with and erotically provoke her father’s valet, 30-year-old Jean, in the festive atmosphere of Midsummer’s Eve. The dramatic design is that of a neatly executed crossover: Julie the social aristocrat condescends to Jean the upstart social slave; conversely, Jean becomes her sexual master; they meet on the leveling grounds of seduction, in the arms of that great equalizer, sex. The materialistic Jean then suggests that they avoid scandal at home by fleeing to Switzerland and running a hotel at Lake Como. However, the 35-year-old cook Kristin, engaged to Jean, prevents the lovers from leaving before the return of Julie’s absent father.

In a conclusion open to contrasting interpretations, the desperate Julie begs Jean to order her to slash her throat. He puts the razor in her hand, and she “walks firmly out through the door,” on her way to suicide. From a naturalistic perspective, her end signifies his triumph; he has defeated her...

(The entire section is 527 words.)