Strindberg himself experienced it, and nearly every one who has ever attempted to outgrow the soul strings of the mother.
Matthew S. Buckley, Tragedy Walks the Streets: The French Revolution in the Making of Modern Drama
The horror of having been brought into the world undesired and unloved, stamped its indelible mark on August Strindberg. It never left him. Nor did fear and hunger — the two terrible phantoms of his childhood. That this is the attitude of woman, is of course denied. But it is nevertheless true. It is only too true that woman is paying back what she has endured for centuries — humiliation, subjection, and bondage.
But making oneself free through the enslavement of another, is by no means a step toward advancement. Woman must grow to understand that the father is as vital a factor in the life of the child as is the mother. Such a realization would help very much to minimize the conflict between the sexes. Of course, that is not the only cause of the conflict.
I loved you as my child. The vile thought instilled into woman by the Church and Puritanism that sex expression without the purpose of procreation is immoral, has been a most degrading influence. Must it always be thus? Even Strindberg does not think so. Till then man and woman must remain in conflict, and the child pay the penalty. August Strindberg, as one of the numberless innocent victims of this terrible conflict, cries out bitterly against it, with the artistic genius and strength that compel attention to the significance of his message.
When we become strong, as were the first French revolutionaries, it will make an exelusively pleasant and cheerful impression to see the royal parks cleared of rotting, superannuated trees which have too long stood in the way of others with equal right to vegetate their full lifetime; it will make a good impression in the same sense as does the sight of the death of an incurable. What a wealth of revolutionary thought,were we to realize that those who will clear society of the rotting, superannuated trees that have so long been standing in the way of others entitled to an equal share in life, must be as strong as the great revolutionists of the past!
Indeed, Strindberg is no trimmer, no cheap reformer, no patchworker; therefore his inability to remain fixed, or to content himself with accepted truths. Therefore also, his great versatility, his deep grasp of the subtlest phases of life. Was he not forever the seeker, the restless spirit roaming the earth, ever in the death-throes of the Old, to give birth to the New? How, then, could he be other than relentless and grim and brutally frank.
Who in modern dramatic art is there to teach us that lesson with the insight of an August Strindberg? He who had been begotten through the physical mastery of his father and the physical subserviency of his mother. Verily, Strindberg knew whereof he spoke-for he spoke with his soul, a language whose significance is illuminating, compelling.
Countess Julie inherited the primitive, intense passion of her mother and the neurotic aristocratic tendencies of her father. Therein the vicious I brutality, the boundless injustice of rank. The Count is absent, and Julie graciously mingles with the servants. The woman in Julie pursues the male, follows him into the kitchen, plays with him as with a pet dog, and then feigns indignation when Jean , aroused makes advances.
I honor the people with my presence. I, in love with my coachman? I, who step down. Even though Jean is a servant, he has his pride, he has his dreams. Strange, is it not, that those who serve and drudge for others, should think so much of themselves as to refuse to be played with? Stranger still that they should indulge in dreams. Jean says:. Do you know how people in high life look from the under-world? They look like hawks and eagles whose backs one seldom sees, for they soar up above. That was the garden of paradise; and there stood many angry angels with flaming swords protecting it; but for all that I and other boys found the way to the tree of life — now you despise me You were unattainable, but through the vision of you I was made to realize how hopeless it was to rise above the conditions of my birth.
The injustice and the bitterness of it all, that places the stigma of birth as an impassable obstacle, a fatal imperative excluding one from the table of life, with the result of producing such terrible effects on the Julies and the Jeans.
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The one unnerved, made helpless and useless by affluence, ease and idleness; the other enslaved and bound by service and dependence. Even when Jean wants to, he cannot rise above his condition. When Julie asks him to embrace her, to love her, he replies:. There is the Count, your father I need only to see his gloves lying in a chair to feel my own insignificance. I have only to hear his bell, to start like a nervous horse And now that I see his boots standing there so stiff and proper, I feet like bowing and scraping No, superstition and prejudice cannot be uprooted in a moment; nor in years.
The awe of authority, servility before station and wealth — these are the curse of the Jean class that makes such cringing slaves of them. Cringing before those who are above them, tyrannical and overbearing toward those who are below them. For Jean has the potentiality of the master in him as much as that of the slave. Yes, you can say that, you are so smart. It reflects on oneself, I think. And to think of the Count! Think of him who has had so much sorrow all his days. And to think of it being with such as you 1 If it had been the Lieutenant — I have never lowered my position.
Let them come and say it! Such dignity and morality are indeed pathetic, because they indicate how completely serfdom may annihilate even the longing for something higher and better in the breast of a human being. The Kristins represent the greatest obstacle to social growth, the deadlock in the conflict between the classes.
On the other hand, the Jeans, with all their longing for higher possibilities, often become brutalized in the hard school of life; though in the conflict with Julie, Jean shows brutality only at the critical moment, when it be. It is a four-act comedy of marriage — the kind of marriage that lacks social and legal security in the form of a ceremony, but retains all the petty. The results of such an anomaly are indeed ludicrous when viewed from a distance, but very tragic for those who play a part in it.
Axel Alberg and his wife Bertha are Swedish artists residing in Paris.
King's College London - 6ABA The French Revolution Effect: Italy, France, Germany, Greece
They are both painters. Nor is Bertha different in her concept of love, which is expressed in the following dialogue:. Bertha immediately concludes that he does not love her and that, moreover, he is jealous of her art. There is a scene. And hear me a moment. Do you think that my position in your house — for it is yours — is agreeable to me?
WHat am I to you? Of what use am I in your house? Oh, I blush when I think about it! And you, Axel, you must help me. If it were for yourself, it would be another matter, but for meForgive me! Now I beg of you as nicely as I know how. Never, Axel!
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Yet though Bertha gracefully accepts everything Axel does for her, with as little compunction as the ordinary wife, she does not give as much in return as the latter.. On the contrary, she exploits Axel in a thousand ways, squanders his hardearned money, and lives the life of the typical wifely parasite. August Strindberg could not help attacking with much bitterness such a farce and outrage parading in the disguise of radicalism.
For Bertha is not an exceptional, isolated case. To-day, as when Strindberg satirized the all-too-feminine, the majority of so-called emancipated women are willing to accept, like Bertha , everything from the man, and yet feel highly indignant if he asks in return the simple comforts of married life. The ordinary wife, at least, does not pretend to play an important role in the life of her husband. Whereas in reality she is often a cold-blooded exploiter of the work and ideas of the man, a heavy handicap to his life-purpose, retarding his growth as effectively as did her grandmothers in the long ago.