Countess Julie Analysis paper work:
Strindberg’s Countess Julie represents an impressive work that is based on naturalism. The characters behave naturally, as if in real life, and the plot in itself can be seen as an extract of real life where the events, the relations among the characters, and the behaviors of these characters are governed by instinct and human nature.
The events take place in the Count’s palace, on a Midsummer’s Eve, an annual celebration in which everybody is involved in drinking, dancing and fun. It is on such event that individuals give in to their desire for fun and pleasure, allowing their human nature and the impacts of their environment to override and control them. And just as a result of this influence, Countess Julie and her servant, Jean, find themselves weakened and indulging in opening up to each other about their feelings and emotions, despite the social restrictions imposed by their contrasting social status. The dialogue between the two ranges between emotional moaning, teasing, and finally agreement on eloping. The Count returns as they are not yet through with their talk, and finding himself falling into conflict between his role as servant and his position as lover, Jean orders Julie to run away so that he can follow her later before they are found out.
Jean is lost in conflict, between his love and childhood memories of the Countess and his obligation to Kristin, the cook, who he has promised to marry. The Countess, on the other hand, is the least concerned about the realities of her social status. She is more under the influence of her nature as a woman who is craving for love and attention, for weakness and masochism. Because of her social position, she has to dominate, order and manipulate, but because of her feminine nature and her need for love, she wants to be ordered, loved, and controlled by her lover, even if he is nothing but her servant.
Evidently, the naturalistic influence is very obvious in this play. On the one hand, we find the two characters are psychologically sophisticated and aware of their social environments and restrictions, but on the other hand, they are also aware of their natural weaknesses. Their dialogue can be seen as a naturalistic evolution in which they finally decide to give in to their natural weaknesses.
However, it would be all too underestimating of the play as a work of art belonging to the naturalistic school if we take things as they are at the surface. The conflict is not between nature and environment. It is also between different layers of nature. For example, Jean is not only in conflict between his status as a man and a servant, but also between his nature as a domineering man and as an obedient man. This is mostly evident when the Count returns, and Jean is confused as he finds himself shrinking from the love-conqueror into the obedient servant. Similarly, Miss Julie is in a conflict between the domineering woman who cares except for her ego and the woman who is urging for love and who is weak enough to fall to the first words of love and emotion.
On the environmental level, we find that the social status of the two is not the only obstacle they face. Their major problem is not that, but rather, the financial difficulties which they will face once they elope. Jean is of course more aware of this problem due to his poverty, but then, Miss Julie evolves and becomes aware too, which is why she finally breaks her father’s safe and steals his money.
The naturalistic conflict
The naturalistic conflict is even more aware in the dialogue of the two lovers when they discuss the aftermath of their eloping. Two scenarios are drawn. In one, they are going to be a happy couple in their cozy hotel, making money and entertaining customers. In the other, their love affair will crumble within a few weeks and then that would be it. Either way, their naturalistic needs for belonging, love, and happiness are strongly felt, and they are willing to indulge in eloping to achieve whatever there is, despite the teasing that Julie suffers at the hands of Jean.
The theme of Countess Julie is clear. It is about the conflict between man’s nature and his social environment. We as audience ask: will the two yield in to their nature and natural needs, and eventually elope? Or will the voice of rationality and realism wake them up and bring the dream to an end with the end of Midsummer’s Eve? In the end, nature prevails, and the conflict is resolved in a climactic manner.
It takes one whole night for the action to take place. The events pass so quickly, on the peak of Midsummer’s Eve such that there is no pause or even a moment of respite. The love affair is started and turned into action all on one night, just as it would have happened under real situations. There are no interventions by the playwright, and the characters act as they would have done so in a real life situation. It is under such an emotionally charged situation that they put their rationality behind them and succumb to their natural and emotional needs. We may detect three climaxes in this play; once when the love relationship is announced; another when Jean turns against Julie and starts insulting her thus almost bringing the relationship to an end with the entry of Kristin, and finally, when the Count returns and the two start the eloping scenario.
The play begins with little action, then action starts to escalate as events unwrap, but to the last moment, the audience are left at unease as they watch the climax continuously escalating until the curtains are drawn. Hence the lesson: this is a play that follows naturalism, where events reach in a climactic sequence and where rationality gives way to emotionality and natural determinism.
The social, economic and natural themes
The social, economic and natural themes are set in a conflicting manner thus reflecting Karl Marx’s vision of conflict, but at the same time, emphasizing the dominance of nature. This is despite the fact that the events take place in the Count’s home, that place where all should be in order and under control. The conflict is therefore all internal at all levels: it takes place inside Jean and Julie; and it takes place inside the Count’s place. We only hear or know of the outside, but it does not appear to us. We know that they are going to Switzerland, but the conflict is all confined to the castle. What will happen later is not of concern to us, because our focus is on the conflict and how it will be resolved.
All in all, Countess Julie is impressive because of the playwright’s ability to allow the characters to act and behave as they would have done in real life, while at the same time, pulling the strings of conflict at the personal, economic and social levels. Furthermore, the playwright does not only keep his characters in action and anxiety, but also his audience. Countess Julie can be regarded as an ideal naturalism production with emphasis on the Marxian conflict and the restrictions imposed by man’s nature, man’s evolution and man’s environment. It is an impressive piece of artwork.