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Animal Imagery in "Miss Julie" Essay

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August Strindberg was one of the first naturalist playwrights. Darwinism influenced the naturalists to perceive a person's fate as the product of blind external or biological forces, chiefly hereditary and environmental. By replicating observed details of environment, the artist would allow the audience a deeper understanding of the forces acting on characters. Miss Julie demonstrates the naturalistic idea that human beings are strictly products of the forces surrounding them - that "free will" and "choice" are illusions. In August Strindberg's play, Miss Julie, Strindberg's naturalistic view of human behavior is exemplified through the use of animal imagery.

The first and most utilized animal image Strindberg employs is the dog. Jean describes to Kristin how Miss Julie treated her ex-fiancé the night they broke up. "She made him leap over her riding crop, the way you teach a dog to jump." A dog is man's best friend because it is an extremely loyal animal; a living, breathing, belonging who is obedient to its owner. Having Jean compare what Miss Julie did to her ex-fiancé with what someone would do to a dog demonstrates Miss Julie's drive to be the dominant one or the master. Miss Julie herself, when telling Jean about her life, refers to this incident similarly, "Just so he'd be my slave." Of course, before she commits suicide, this is ironically contradicted when Miss Julie begs Jean "Order me, and I'll obey like a dog!" Miss Julie feels that her social status is far superior to that of Jean, and that their relationship could be compared to that of a master and his dog. Miss Julie says that Jean is "a dog who wears my collar." The dog imagery in the play is also used to demonstrate the difference in so...


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... "free will" and "choice" are illusions. In his preface to the play, Strindberg discusses what motivates Miss Julie: "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." The sum of these innate characteristics that make up Miss Julie cause her to want to be free from who she is, as well as to desire her own fall. The animal imagery in the play demonstrates how society looks down upon the people they feel are inferior to them. It also symbolizes the never-ending struggle for one to succeed in society and become a person of a higher social standing. I believe that Strindberg has given the audience a deeper understanding of the forces acting on the characters in Miss Julie through the use of animal imagery.

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"Miss Julie" by August Strindberg



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