Miss Julie and the Nietzchean Model

April 7, 2019 by Essay Writer

In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzche discusses at length the duality inherent in the development of art. This duality is caused by two opposing principles termed Apollinian and Dionysian. These two principles are employed in August Strindberg’s Miss Julie through the main character of Miss Julie.Societal class is a major theme of the play and its relation to the Apollinian and Dionysian duality is apparent when observing Miss Julie. Throughout the play, Miss Julie is caught between staying within her class and breaking from it. This is her struggle between Apollinian reason and Dionysian want, respectively. The whole idea of class is Apollinian – based on rationality and division of individuals – while the idea of no class system is Dionysian – based on community. Miss Julie goes back and forth between these two ideas constantly, and her inner struggle can clearly be seen through the symbolism apparent in her recurring dream: “I’ve climbed to the top of a pillar, and am sitting there, and I can see no way to descend. When I look down, I become dizzy, but I must come down- but I haven’t the courage to jump. I can’t stay up there, and I long to fall, but I don’t fall” (Strindberg 127). She is obviously tremendously conflicted, desiring on the one hand to break from her class, while reasoning on the other that her social constraints make that impossible. In Nietzchean terms, Miss Julie’s Dionysian want can be looked at as an “intoxicated reality” because, in terms of class, she “seeks to destroy the individual and redeem him by a mystic feeling of oneness” (Nietzche 38).Not only is this class struggle within Miss Julie illustrative of Nietzche’s duality, but so is the entire makeup of her character as laid out by Strindberg. In the preface, Strindberg suggests motivations for Miss Julie’s fate at the end of the play, listing “the festive atmosphere of Midsummer Night; her father’s absence; her menstruation; her association with animals; the intoxicating effect of the dance…the powerfully aphrodisiac influence of the flowers…” (Strindberg 102). These motivations can be looked at as Dionysian forces, which Miss Julie must counter with rationality and avoid letting them make her hysterical. In Nietzchean terms she must “keep in mind that measured restraint, that freedom from the wilder emotions, that calm of the sculptor god” (Nietzche 35). Again, her motivations are Dionysian wants, which she must keep in check with Apollinian reason.Finally, what happens to Miss Julie at the end of the play is illustrative of the Apollinian/Dionysian duality on many levels. Firstly, in the preface, Strindberg claims that Miss Julie is the half-woman type and he goes on to explain that this type gives rise to an “indeterminate sex to whom life is a torture, but fortunately they go under…because their repressed instinct breaks out uncontrollably…” (Strindberg 104). This sounds remarkably similar to Nietzche’s descriptions of the relation between Apollinian and Dionysian cultures. Nietzche claims that Apollinian consciousness, the “mere appearance” of everyday life through the eyes of the individual, is but a veil, used to hide the Dionysian world of suffering. It seems as if Miss Julie was hidden safely behind this veil until the end where she asks Jean to order her to kill herself. She claims it’s as easy as being hypnotized, to which Jean responds that “the subject has to be asleep” (Strindberg 160). Miss Julie answers that she is already asleep and that she seems to be in a cloud of smoke. Strindberg’s stage direction for that line is “in an ecstasy” (Ibid). Suddenly, in these final lines, all becomes clear to Miss Julie through her hysterical, intoxicated state. A few lines later Jean responds to a comment Miss Julie makes with “Don’t think, don’t think!” (Strindberg 161) Clearly Jean is making sure to suppress the Apollinian reason within Miss Julie which is keeping her safe from her Dionysian fate of killing herself. Also, Nietzche claims, in discussing Apollo: “And so…there occur the demands ‘know thyself’ and ‘nothing in excess’; consequently overweening pride and excess are regarded as the truly hostile demons of the non-Apollinian sphere…” (Nietzche 46). He goes on to give examples, such as: “because of his excessive wisdom, which could solve the riddle of the Sphinx, Oedipus must be plunged into a bewildering vortex of crime” (Ibid). This can easily be applied to the character of Miss Julie; her Dionysian tendencies, influences, excesses, and motivations (most of which have already been discussed including, for example, the Midsummer Eve revelry occurring right outside) throughout the play lead directly to her fate at the end of the play.

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