Strindberg wrote this play with the intention of abiding by the theories of "naturalism" – both his own version, and also the version described by the French novelist and literary theoretician, Émile Zola. Zola's term for naturalism is la nouvelle formule. The three primary principles of naturalism (faire vrai, faire grand and faire simple) are first, that the play should be realistic, and the result of a careful study of human behavior and psychology. The characters should be flesh and blood; their motivations and actions should be grounded in their heredity and environment. The presentation of the play in terms of the setting and performances should be realistic and not flamboyant or theatrical. The single setting of Miss Julie, for example, is a kitchen.
Second, the conflicts in the play should be issues of meaningful, life-altering significance – not small or petty.
And third, the play should be simple – not cluttered with complicated sub-plots or lengthy expositions.
Strindberg was keenly aware that the French playwrights had been unable to achieve naturalism, and he felt that he could do it. Miss Julie is not only successful as a naturalistic drama, but it is a play that has achieved the rare distinction of being performed on stages all over the world every year since it was written in 1888.