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Acelebrated writer and controversial personality of nineteenth-century France, Sand wrote prolifically in a variety of genres, producing over eighty novels, three collections of short stories, a twenty-volume autobiography, numerous essays, twenty-five dramas, and approximately twenty thousand letters. She remains best known for her novels, which have been praised for their vivid depictions of the peasantry and the countryside, insightful studies of human nature, and natural prose style. Although she was one of the most popular novelists of her time, relatively few of her works are studied today. Instead, she is primarily remembered for her bold behavior while living in Paris as a young woman: wearing men's clothing, espousing equal rights for women, and engaging in love affairs with prominent artistic figures. Feminist scholars who have examined Sand's work have focused on her representations of female characters, her critique of marriage and the relations between the sexes, her deconstruction of gender stereotypes, her exploration of the female body and transvestism, her ideas about masculinity and femininity, and her controversial brand of feminism.

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Sand was born Aurore Dupin on July 1, 1804, to parents of dissimilar backgrounds: her mother was a bird seller's daughter, while her father was an officer in Napoleon's army and purportedly an illegitimate descendant of Frederic-Auguste de Saxe, King of Poland. Her parents married just one month before her birth. Following her father's death when she was four, Sand was entrusted to her paternal grandmother's care and was raised at the family estate of Nohant in Berry. There, she was privately tutored until she reached the age of thirteen, at which time she was sent to the Convent of the English Augustinians in Paris for three years. When she was eighteen, Sand married a local army officer, Casimir Dudevant, and eventually became the mother of two children. Dudevant and Sand soon realized that they were incompatible, and after several restless and unhappy years of marriage, Sand left her husband in 1831 to pursue a literary career in Paris. Following the publication of two novels written in collaboration with her lover Jules Sandeau and signed J. Sand, she began her career in earnest with the novel Indiana (1832), writing independently under the name George Sand. For the next several decades, Sand remained a prominent member of the artistic and intellectual community in Paris, due to her considerable literary output as well as her friendships with such figures as Honoré de Balzac and Gustave Flaubert. She also often captured public interest with her romantic involvements, which included relationships with Alfred de Musset and Frederic Chopin. Sand spent her last years in Nohant, where she died in 1876.


Sand is best known for her bold statements about the rights of women in nineteenth-century society, her exploration of contemporary social and philosophical issues, and her depiction of the lives and language of French provincials. Several of her important early novels, including Indiana, Valentine (1832), Lélia (1833), and Jacques (1834), reflect her rebellion against the bonds of marriage and deal largely with relationships between men and women. Clearly influenced by Lord Byron and Jean Jacques Rousseau, Sand crafted Romantic narratives depicting passionate personal revolt against societal conventions and an ardent feminism, attitudes that outraged her early British and American critics. These novels were extremely popular with the reading public, however, and they established Sand as an important literary voice for her generation. Sand's abiding interest in politics and philosophy is evident in such novels as Consuelo (1842-43) and Le meunier d'Angibault (1845; The Miller of Angibault). These works, dealing specifically with humanitarianism, Christian socialism, and republicanism, have been described by critics as the least plausible of her literary efforts; the tone is often didactic and the plots contrived. Sand is perhaps most renowned for her pastoral novels. Set in her native Berry, La mare au diable (1846; The Haunted Marsh) Françoise le champi (1848; Francis the Waif), and La petite Fadette (1849; Little Fadette) were inspired by her love of the countryside and her sympathy for the peasants. Realistic in background detail and distinguished by their Romantic idealism, they are considered by many scholars to be Sand's finest novels. The most enduring products of her later years are her autobiography, Histoire de ma vie (1845-55; My Life) and her voluminous correspondence.


From the beginning of her career, Sand's unconventional lifestyle interfered with serious critical assessment of her works. In spite of moral prejudice, which dominated early critical analyses of her works, she eventually won acceptance as an artist during her lifetime. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, many critical studies of Sand's oeuvre attempted to establish links between her life and works, particularly focusing on Sand's romantic relationships. Since the early 1970s, critics have concentrated on the works themselves, noting especially her bold exploration of such issues as sexual freedom and independence for women. Many feminist critics have lauded Sand for presenting strong, willful heroines, and for exposing the obstacles faced by women—particularly women artists—in the nineteenth century. Several commentators have argued, however, that Sand's feminism was limited; she consistently advocated equal rights for women in matters of marriage and divorce, yet she subscribed to conventional views on male and female social roles. Some critics have noted that she regarded women to be creatures of emotion and men as thinking beings. However, Sand continues to be viewed as an important feminist, one whose life and work sought to undercut gender stereotypes and rebel against the roles imposed upon women by male-dominated society.

Principal Works

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Indiana (novel) 1832

Valentine (novel) 1832

Lélia (novel) 1833

Jacques (novel) 1834

Lettres d'un voyageur [Letters of a Traveler] (travel sketches) 1834-36

André (novel) 1835

Mauprat (novel) 1837

Spiridion (novel) 1839

Les sept cordes de la lyre [The Seven Strings of the Lyre] (play) 1840

Le compagnon du tour de France [The Companion of the Tour of France] (novel) 1841

Consuelo (novel) 1842-43

Jeanne (novel) 1844

Le meunier d'Angibault [The Miller of Angibault] (novel) 1845

La mare au diable [The Haunted Marsh] (novel) 1846

Françoise le champi [Francis the Waif] (novel) 1848

La petite Fadette [Little Fadette] (novel) 1849

Histoire de ma vie [My Life] 20 vols. (autobiography) 1854-55

Elle et Lui [She and He] (novel) 1859

Le marquis de villemer [The Marquis of Villemer] (novel) 1861

Flamarande (novel) 1875

Correspondance, 1812-1876 6 vols. (letters) 1883-95

George Sand (Essay Date 1832)

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SOURCE: Sand, George. "Preface to the Edition of 1832." In Indiana, translated by G. Burnham Ives, pp. v-xxi. Philadelphia: George Barrie, 1900.

In the following essay, originally included as a preface to the 1832 edition of her novel Indiana, Sand discusses how the work is a representation of the relationship between women and society.

If certain pages of this book should incur the serious reproach of tending toward novel beliefs, if unbending judges shall consider their tone imprudent and perilous, I should be obliged to reply to the criticism that it does too much honor to a work of no importance; that, in order to attack the great questions of social order, one must either be conscious of great strength of purpose or pride one's self upon great talent, and that such presumption is altogether foreign to a very simple tale, in which the author has invented almost nothing. If, in the course of his task, he has happened to set forth the lamentations extorted from his characters by the social malady with which they were assailed; if he has not shrunk from recording their aspirations after a happier existence, let the blame be laid upon society for its inequalities, upon destiny for its caprices! The author is merely a mirror which reflects them, a machine which reverses their tracing, and he has no reason for self-reproach if the impression is exact, if the reflection is true.

Consider further that the narrator has not taken for text or devise a few shrieks of suffering and wrath scattered through the drama of human life. He does not claim to conceal serious instruction beneath the exterior form of a tale; it is not his aim to lend a hand in constructing the edifice which a doubtful future is preparing for us and to give a sly kick at that of the past which is crumbling away. He knows too well that we live in an epoch of moral deterioration, wherein the reason of mankind has need of curtains to soften the too bright glare which dazzles it. If he had felt sufficiently learned to write a genuinely useful book, he would have toned down the truth, instead of presenting it in its crude tints and with its startling effects. That book would have performed the functions of blue spectacles for weak eyes.

He does not abandon the idea of performing that honorable and laudable task some day; but, being still a young man, he simply tells you today what he has seen, not presuming to draw his conclusions concerning the great controversy between the future and the past, which perhaps no man of the present generation is especially competent to do. Too conscientious to conceal his doubts from you, but too timid to transform them into certainties, he relies upon your reflections and abstains from weaving into the woof of his narrative preconceived opinions, judgments all formed. He plies with exactitude his trade of narrator. He will tell you everything, even painful truths; but, if you should wrap him in the philosopher's robe, you would find that he was exceedingly confused, simple storyteller that he is, whose mission is to amuse and not to instruct.

Even were he more mature and more skilful, he would not dare to lay his hand upon the great sores of dying civilization. One must be so sure of being able to cure them when one ventures to probe them! He would much prefer to arouse your interest in old discarded beliefs, in old-fashioned, vanished forms of devotion, to employing his talent, if he had any, in blasting overturned altars. He knows, however, that, in these charitable times, a timorous conscience is despised by public opinion as hypocritical reserve, just as, in the arts, a timid bearing is sneered at as an absurd mannerism; but he knows also that there is honor, if not profit, in defending lost causes.

To him who should misunderstand the spirit of this book, such a profession of faith would sound like an anachronism. The narrator hopes that few auditors, after listening to his tale to the end, will deny the moral to be derived from the facts, a moral which triumphs there as in all human affairs; it seemed to him, when he wrote the last line, that his conscience was clear. He flattered himself, in a word, that he had described social miseries without too much bitterness, human passions without too much passion. He placed the mute under his strings when they echoed too loudly; he tried to stifle certain notes of the soul which should remain mute, certain voices of the heart which cannot be awakened without danger.

Perhaps you will do him justice if you agree that the being who tries to free himself from his lawful curb is represented as very wretched indeed, and the heart that rebels against the decrees of its destiny as in sore distress. If he has not given the best imaginable rôle to that one of his characters who represents the law, if that one who represents opinion is even less cheerful, you will see a third representing illusion, who cruelly thwarts the vain hopes and enterprises of passion. Lately, you will see that, although he has not strewn rose-leaves on the ground where the law pens up our desires like a sheep's appetite, he has scattered thistles along the roads which lead us away from it.

These facts, it seems to me, are sufficient to protect this book from the reproach of immorality; but, if you absolutely insist that a novel should end like one of Marmontel's tales, you will perhaps chide me on account of the last pages; you will think that I have done wrong in not casting into misery and destitution the character who has transgressed the laws of mankind through two volumes. In this regard, the author will reply that before being moral he chose to be true; he will say again, that, feeling that he was too new to the trade to compose a philosophical treatise on the manner of enduring life, he has restricted himself to telling you the story of Indiana, a story of the human heart, with its weaknesses, its passions, its rights and its wrongs, its good qualities and its evil qualities.

Indiana, if you insist upon an explanation of every thing in the book, is a type; she is woman, the feeble being whose mission it is to represent passions repressed, or, if you prefer, suppressed by the law; she is desire at odds with necessity; she is love dashing her head blindly against all the obstacles of civilization. But the serpent wears out his teeth and breaks them in trying to gnaw a file; the powers of the soul become exhausted in trying to struggle against the positive facts of life. That is the conclusion you may draw from this tale, and it was in that light that it was told to him who transmits it to you.

But despite these protestations the narrator anticipates reproaches. Some upright souls, some honest men's consciences will be alarmed perhaps to see virtue so harsh, reason so downcast, opinion so unjust. He is dismayed at the prospect; for the thing that an author should fear more than anything in the world is the alienating from his works the confidence of good men, the awakening of an ominous sympathy in embittered souls, the inflaming of the sores, already too painful, which are made by the social yoke upon impatient and rebellious necks.

The success which is based upon an unworthy appeal to the passions of the age is the easiest to win, the least honorable to strive for. The historian of Indiana denies that he has ever dreamed of it; if he thought that he had reached that result, he would destroy his book, even though he felt for it the artless fatherly affection which swaddles the rickety offspring of these days of literary abortions.

But he hopes to justify himself by stating that he thought it better to enforce his principles by real examples than by poetic fancies. He believes that his tale, with the depressing atmosphere of frankness that envelopes it, may make an impression upon young and ardent brains. They will find it difficult to distrust a historian who forces his way brutally through the midst of facts, elbowing right and left, with no more regard for one camp than for the other. To make a cause odious or absurd is to persecute it, not to combat it. It may be that the whole art of the novelist consists in interesting the culprits whom he wishes to redeem, the wretched whom he wishes to cure, in their own story.

It would be giving overmuch importance to a work that is destined doubtless to attract very little notice, to seek to protect it against every sort of accusation. Therefore the author surrenders unconditionally to the critics; a single charge seems to him too serious to accept, and that is the charge that he has written a dangerous book. He would prefer to remain in a humble position forever to building his reputation upon a ruined conscience. He will add a word therefore to repel the blame which he most dreads.

Raymon, you will say, is society; egoism is substituted for morality and reason. Raymon, the author will reply, is the false reason, the false morality by which society is governed; he is the man of honor as the world understands the phrase, because the world does not examine closely enough to see everything. The good man you have beside Raymon; and you will not say that he is the enemy of order; for he sacrifices his happiness, he loses all thought of self before all questions of social order.

Then you will say that virtue is not rewarded with sufficient blowing of trumpets. Alas! the answer is that we no longer witness the triumph of virtue elsewhere than at the boulevard theatres. The author will tell you that he has undertaken to exhibit society to you, not as virtuous, but as necessary, and that honor has become as difficult as heroism in these days of moral degeneration. Do you think that this truth will cause great souls to loathe honor? I think just the opposite.

George Sand (Essay Date 1852)

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SOURCE: Sand, George. "Introduction." In Indiana, translated by G. Burnham Ives, pp. v-xxi. Philadelphia: George Barrie, 1900.

In the following essay, originally written in 1852, Sand discloses her motives for writing her novel Indiana.

I wrote Indiana during the autumn of 1831. It was my first novel; I wrote it without any fixed plan, having no theory of art or philosophy in my mind. I was at the age when one writes with one's instincts, and when reflection serves only to confirm our natural tendencies. Some people chose to see in the book a deliberate argument against marriage. I was not so ambitious, and I was surprised to the last degree at all the fine things that the critics found to say concerning my subversive purposes. Criticism is far too acute; that is what will cause its death. It never passes judgment ingenuously. It looks for noon at four o'clock, as the old women say, and must cause much suffering to artists who care more for its decrees than they ought to do.

Under all régimes and in all times there has been a race of critics, who, in contempt of their own talent, have fancied that it was their duty to ply the trade of denouncers, of purveyors to the prosecuting attorney's office; extraordinary functions for men of letters to assume with regard to their confrères! The rigorous measures of government against the press never satisfy these savage critics. They would have them directed not only against works but against persons as well, and, if their advice were followed, some of us would be forbidden to write anything whatsoever.

At the time that I wrote Indiana, the cry of Saint Simonism was raised on every pretext. Later they shouted all sorts of other things. Even now certain writers are forbidden to open their mouths, under pain of seeing the police agents of certain newspapers pounce upon their work and hale them before the police of the constituted powers. If a writer puts noble sentiments in the mouth of a mechanic, it is an attack on the bourgeoisie; if a girl who has gone astray is rehabilitated after expiating her sin, it is an attack on virtuous women; if an impostor assumes titles of nobility, it is an attack on the patrician caste; if a bully plays the swashbuckling soldier, it is an insult to the army; if a woman is maltreated by her husband, it is an argument in favor of promiscuous love. And so with everything. Kindly brethren, devout and generous critics! What a pity that no one thinks of creating a petty court of literary inquisition in which you should be the torturers! Would you be satisfied to tear the books to pieces and burn them at a slow fire, and could you not, by your urgent representations, obtain permission to give a little taste of the rack to those writers who presume to have other gods than yours?

Thank God, I have forgotten the names of those who tried to discourage me at my first appearance, and who, being unable to say that my first attempt had fallen completely flat, tried to distort it into an incendiary proclamation against the repose of society. I did not expect so much honor, and I consider that I owe to those critics the thanks which the hare proffered the frogs, imagining from their alarm that he was entitled to deem himself a very thunderbolt of war.

General Commentary

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SOURCE: Yalom, Marilyn. "Towards a History of Female Adolescence: The Contribution of George Sand." In George Sand: Collected Essays, edited by Janis Glasgow, pp. 204-15. Troy, N.Y.: Whitson, 1985.

In the following essay, Yalom examines Sand's contribution to a history of female adolescence, concentrating particularly on the author's autobiography and comparing it with works by other women writers.

When the history of female adolescence is written, it will be seen that the writing of George Sand offers a store of portraits and insights unparalleled in her time and place. Both in her autobiographical and fictive works, Sand proved that adolescence was a subject worthy of observation and a "source of poetry."1 Like her master Rousseau a century earlier, she both excoriated the corrupted state of adolescence among her contemporaries and immortalized the adolescent soul in its physical restlessness, spiritual awakening, and fitful attempts to integrate conflicting social, psychological and biological pressures.

In early nineteenth century France, the idea of adolescence as a period of life distinct from childhood was not yet a familiar concept. As Philippe Ariès has written in Centuries of Childhood: "People had no idea of what we call adolescence, and the idea was a long time taking shape.… The first typical adolescent of modern times was Wagner's Siegfried. "2 Here, as elsewhere, the concept of adolescence was predicated on a male model. Thus Ariès could write that "… Siegfried expressed for the first time that combination of (provisional) purity, physical strength, naturism, spontaneity and joie de vivre which was to make the adolescent the hero of our twentieth century, the century of adolescence."3

But what about the adolescent heroine? Does she not also have an experiential and a literary tradition? And is hers to be encompassed and adequately represented by the generic masculine?

Another example of this one-sided optic is found in Justin O'Brien's book The Novel of Adolescence in France,4 in which the author deals exclusively with male writers—Jules Renard, Maurice Barrès, Romain Rolland, Raymond Radiguet, Gide, Cocteau, Montherlant—an impressive array to be sure. His reasons for excluding women writers like Sand, whom he hails as "the first person to recognize that there existed a problem of the adolescent and to point out that literature had ignored it," and Colette, whose name is simply listed in an appendix, are questionable: "It appears that the advent of puberty, whose physiological repercussions are so marked in girls, influences them intellectually and spiritually far less than it does boys(!) …5 Had O'Brien been less fettered by received ideas on the nature of women and more open to a genuinely empathic reading of Sand and Colette, to name only the most prominent French women writers with books that fall into the category of the novel of adolescence, he might have been less certain of his criteria for exclusion.

This paper is an initial attempt to explore Sand's contribution to a history of female adolescence. In the interest of space I shall limit myself to Histoire de ma vie, though many of Sand's works of fiction offer rich ground for similar investigations. In addition, for the sake of comparison, I shall occasionally draw upon American and English sources contemporary with Sand so as to include certain characteristics of female adolescence which had currency not only in France but elsewhere in the Western world.6

In the nineteenth century France the term "enfance" covered anyone who was not an adult. The word "adolescence" had not yet come to be popularly used to designate that period in life between childhood and adulthood, though both Rousseau in his Confessions and Sand in Histoire de ma vie brought the term into literature. Similarly, in English-speaking countries the term "infancy" had a broad connotation, often designating anyone under eighteen or even twenty-one, and the word "youth" was loosely used to encompass both adolescents and young adults.

In the twentieth century, both French- and English-speaking peoples define adolescence as that period in the life cycle between childhood and adulthood, roughly from twelve to twenty. The first line of demarcation is often clear-cut, a biological fact marking the onset of puberty occurring today, on the average, around age twelve for girls and age fourteen for boys. In the nineteenth century, the average age of puberty took place approximately two years later for both girls and boys. The second line of demarcation is more obscure. When does adolescence end today? When one leaves school? When one begins to earn one's keep? When one marries? Ariès notes that in the twentieth century marriage has ceased to mark the end of adolescence and that the "married adolescent … (has) become one of the most prominent types of our time."7

In the time of George Sand, born in 1804, marriage was clearly viewed not only as the end of "enfance" but as the primary context in which female adolescence had meaning. Though Sand herself made no mention of the onset of menstruation in her autobiography—a subject considered too indelicate for literary reference—French medical literature had long been explicit in its understanding of the interface between the physical and social factors marking the female's transition from girl to woman. For example, the noted doctor Marc Colombat de l'Isère, outlining the hygienic rules concerning puberty and menstruation, wrote that the female adolescent "… needs closest watching.…Where as before puberty she existed but for herself alone … she now belongs to the entire species which she is destined to perpetuate.… (I)t is of the highest importance to remove young girls from boarding school, when they approach the age of puberty, in order to exercise a constant watch over them."8

Sand's grandmother did just the opposite; she placed her ward in a convent school, but the motivation was the same: to place her in a situation of surveillance so that she would be molded to the purposes of society. As a child, Aurore car-roused with children of both sexes in the countryside she adored; now she had to be sequestered, literally cloistered with other girls, and the implication is unmistakable. Unchaperoned contact with males is dangerous, overly affectionate contact with other females is also dangerous; girls are enjoined never to be alone or in couples, but always in groups of three or more. "Onanism, that execrable and fatal evil, destroys beauty and health and conducts almost always to a premature grave."9 With puberty, sex had reared its ugly head and was to be repressed in every way for as long or as short a period as was necessary to fashion the adolescent into a marriageable product and marry her off to the best suitor.

This is how George Sand recalls her grand-mother's decision to send her away from the country estate at Nohant, where she had passed most of her childhood, to a convent school in Paris:

… ma grand-mère me dit: «Ma fille, vous n'avez plus le sens commun. Vous aviez de l'esprit, et vous faites tout votre possible pour devenir ou pour paraître bête. Vous pourriez être agréable, et vous vous faites laide à plaisir. Votre teint est noirci, vos mains gercées, vos pieds vont se dé-former dans les sabots. Votre cerveau se déforme et se dégingande comme votre personne. Tantôt vous répondez à peine et vous avez l'air d'un esprit fort qui dédaigne tout. Tantôt vous parlez à tort et à travers comme une pie qui babille pour babiller. Vous avez été une charmante petite fille, il ne faut pas devenir une jeune personne absurde. Vous n'avez point de tenue, point de grâce, point d'àpropos. Vous avez un bon coeur et une tête pitoyable. Il faut changer tout cela. Vous avez d'ailleurs besoin de maîtres d'agrément, et je ne puis vous en procurer ici. J'ai donc résolu de vous mettre au couvent, et nous allons à Paris à cet effect.»10

It appears that Aurore's grandmother decided to place her in a boarding school because she could not cope with the tempestuous outbursts and unruly conduct of a young adolescent. Before this decision, Aurore had been allowed to associate with the peasant children who surrounded her grandmother's estate. She spoke their patois, joined in their rustic activities—milking cows and goats, making cheese, dancing country dances, eating wild apples and pears (all of which stood her in good stead later in life when she wrote her pastoral novels). Up to the age of twelve or thirteen she could roam the countryside according to her fancy and read whatever she liked. Her education had been irregular, consisting of periodic excursions to Paris with her grandmother for a smattering of private lessons in handwriting, dancing, music, a bit of geography and history, and back to Nohant with the more regular lessons in Latin and French literature under her father's old tutor, Deschartres.

In the twelve months between her twelfth and thirteenth years, Aurore Dupin grew three inches, attaining a maximum height of five feet two inches. It is at this point that she began to show these signs of adolescence which became the despair of her grandmother—irritability, temper tantrums, outbursts toward her tutor during which she refused to study. Once she threw her books on the floor, exclaiming out loud that she wouldn't study because she didn't want to. At table she began to speak out of turn, laughed at the slightest pretext, was turning by her later accounts into a real "enfant terrible."

Home education by one's mother or a tutor was the prevalent pattern for those privileged girls who were educated at all. As outlined by Albertine Necker de Saussure in a widely read treatise on the education of French girls,11 there was to be essentially no difference in the education of girls and boys up to the age of ten. But after the age of ten, according to Necker de Saussure and other authors of educational manuals, girls should be educated differently in view of the role they would later play as wives and mothers. At this point, the mother-educator, if she educates her daughter at home, or the school, if the girl is at boarding school, should educate the sexes separately. Aurore was sent off to school a little later than girls of her same class, probably because her grandmother, a widow living in the country, wanted to keep her with her, but when the signs of adolescence became too visible, Mme Dupin was forced to think in terms of her grand-daughter's future, and this entailed taming her and transforming her from an unmannered country girl into a marriageable young lady.

Thus Aurore was packed off to a convent school at age thirteen. The description of her convent years in Histoire de ma vie reveals the picture of an active, energetic, curious thirteen-year-old. Although she was immediately aware of the fact that the other girls had superior manners and were more restrained in their activities, she was not about to let this inhibit her. Just as she had romped through the countryside with her peasant friends and turned her grandmother's house into a meeting place for dozens of rowdy companions, so too she demonstrated the same restless energy in her first year at the convent: running into the courtyard at recess, prying into every nook and cranny, exploring underground passages and dangerous rooftops.

The three years at the convent school from age thirteen to sixteen, covering some two hundred pages in Histoire de ma vie, provide an excellent tableau of female adolescence among the privileged classes in early nineteenth century France. While it is true that Aurore Dupin was an unusual child, that she had superior gifts and a superior education, and that she had above all a greater ability to exercise her will than most of her contemporaries, her adolescence has many features which we think of as typical, not only for girls in nineteenth century France but for most Western female adolescents in modern times.

1) First, there is the initial restlessness and energy, which seems, from the vantage point of adults, to have no direction and to "get out of hand." This energy expresses itself physically in raucous activities characterized by unrestrained movement and a sense of adventure, often in defiance of the social norms. This burst of physical energy was recognized by Rousseau, for one, as the first hallmark of puberty.

In this respect, it is interesting to compare George Sand's description of her adolescent years with the prescriptive medical literature of the same period. In Sand's autobiographical accounts, we see numerous robust teen-agers with an insatiable drive toward movement and activity. The prescriptive medical literature, on the other hand, depicted adolescence as a time of great fragility for females, a life crisis where the budding woman was particularly vulnerable to all sorts of disease and fatal conditions.

Sand remembers herself as an unusually strong and active adolescent, making dangerous excursions underground and on the rooftops, enduring the cold of an attic room and the truly spartan conditions that were de rigueur in French convent schools and in English boarding schools even in this century. And despite chilblains and sores on hands and feet, she not only survives with no trace of cough or consumption but she enjoys a healthful constitution—in her case, into her seventies. Adolescence for George Sand was no passage into an adulthood of feminine fragility, but into a vigorous and forceful womanhood. Certainly this was not true of all, or even most female adolescents of her time and place. Many did indeed die of consumption and other ills, but this was probably due more to unhygienic conditions and to poor diet than to a natural vulnerability induced by menarche.

2) Second, there is a spirit of rebellion that characterizes her early adolescence, as indeed her entire adult life. When George Sand entered the convent at the age of thirteen, she immediately allied herself with a group called "les diables." She could have chosen to have joined "les sages," or "les bêtes," but it is, she tells us, in protest against the injustices of Mlle D., headmistress of the children's division. There are several aspects of this alignment with "les diables" which are particularly fascinating. First, there is the very fact that such clearly defined groups exist. What is this need of early adolescents to lock themselves into tightly bound peer groups whose major mission seems to be the exclusion of others from it? Psychologists like Erik Erikson would emphasize the fact that such group affiliation is very important in the process of developing a sense of identity at a time when one is separating oneself from parents and all the familiar supports of childhood.12 The group proffers an instant sense of identity. But why should some of the girls have chosen to be "good girls" and some have chosen to be "devils?" And why is there so much antisocial behavior during the adolescent years—juvenile delinquency, as we call it today in its extreme form? Clearly, for Aurore Dupin at least, joining "les diables" offered a clearcut means of rebelling against the social norms which she found repugnant.

The leader in this enterprise was one Mary G. and she was surely the antithesis of the fragile Victorian woman, who was the ideal in France as well as in England. Strength, braveness, boldness—these were not characteristics that the convent had set out to inculcate in their young ladies. Little wonder that strong-willed adolescent females like George Sand and Mary G. and others (Juliette Adam springs to mind) refused to become the passive porcelain figures that society wished to make of them.

In common with our twentieth century memories of adolescence, Sand recalls a "secret society" with its rite of initiation, the written notes passed secretly in class, and the spontaneous outbursts of laughter understandable only to the initiated. Certain characteristics seem particularly French; for example, the French regard for form, as in Aurore's first meeting with Mary G., of which she wrote: "C'était à elle, comme plus ancienne, de me faire les avances."13 Though the forms were more explicitly hierarchical than our own and the students more embedded in a literary tradition, there is nonetheless a very familiar quality for all who have discovered rebellion in adolescence and enlisted private group support to condone anti-parental or antisocial behavior.

3) Another aspect is, of course, the intense female friendships that are established in this period of life, all the more intense when one is isolated from boys. Sand at the age of fifty remembers in detail a large number of girls whom she loved with great tenderness, not only Mary G., in the lower division, but Valentine de Gouy and Louise de la Rochejaquelein, later Eliza Austen, the most intelligent girl in the school, and also the nuns who served as mother figures. Sand wrote of her great worshipful love for Madame Alicia, "la perle du couvent,"14 and of her great attachment to the lay sister, Sister Hélène, who did the dirtiest work in the convent. For a small convent of some one hundred and twenty or one hundred and thirty persons, it offered a wide range of deep attachments to various types of persons.15

4) The religious awakening and conversion experienced by Aurore Dupin during her convent years provides another focal point for the study of adolescence, and one that is closely linked to the historical time in which she lived and to her particular culture, although spiritual awakening in adolescence is not uncommon in all times. Sand divides her convent life into three periods: "La première année, je fus plus que jamais l'enfant terrible. La seconde année, je passais presque subitement à une dévotion ardente et agitée. La troisième année, je me maintins dans un état de dévotion calme, ferme et enjouée."16

This experience of religious conversion as told by George Sand is not unlike many other experiences undergone by other adolescent girls in France, England and the United States at the same period in history. It may be somewhat ironic to realize that something so infinitely personal as the experience of grace and communion with God can have, in certain historical moments, almost a vogueish quality. In early nineteenth century France, the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy ushered in a vigorous revival of Catholic doctrine in both public and private life. Similarly, in England and America, the Christian revivalist movement promoted the reading of Gospel and the examination of conscience as fundamental nourishment for the soul seeking salvation. Conversion was a socially sanctioned event, a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. In all three countries, it was expected to occur around the time of adolescence and was interpreted as a sign of divine grace marking a new beginning. According to the prevailing philosophy, this much encouraged religious awakening, accompanying the physical awakening of puberty, would give direction to one's resurgent physical and emotional needs. As Barbara Gelpi has written in her work on Victorian girlhood, "To young children religion may well have been drab, boring or repressive, but for many adolescents it became an emotional outlet and an escape from repression."17 Citing the examples of Sainte Thérèse in France and Catherine Beecher in America, Gelpi concludes that "even those who were not susceptible to the fervent spirituality of their peers … formed their adult personalities in the dialectic between their feelings and the religious expectations for them of those about them."18

Like many other converts, Sand's attention was drawn to the mystical experience by reading from the "Lives of the Saints," and stimulated through the eye and the ear. At mass there was the superb picture of Jesus in the Garden of Olives, the glitter of stained glass windows, the charm of the chapel at night, the silver candlesticks, the beautiful flowers, all of which seem to blend in that moment of insight—that flash of white light which she experienced in the convent chapel.

L'heure s'avançait, la prière était sonnée, on allait fermer l'église. J'avais tout oublié. Je ne sais ce qui se passait en moi. Je respirais une atmosphère de suavité indicible, et je la respirais par l'âme plus encore que par les sens. Tout à coup je ne sais quel ébranlement se produisit dans tout mon être, un vertige passe devant mes yeux comme une lueur blanche dont je me sens enveloppée. Je crois entendre une voix murmurer à mon oreille: tolle, lege. Je me retourne, croyant que c'est Marie-Alicia qui me parle. J'étais seule.

Je ne me fis pas d'orgueilleuse illusion, je ne crus point à un miracle. Je me rendis fort bien compte de l'espèce d'hallucination où j'étais tombée. Je n'en fus ni enivrée ni effrayée. Je ne cherchai ni à l'augmenter ni à m'y soustraire. Seulement je sentis que la foi s'emparait de moi, comme si je l'avais souhaité, par le coeur. J'en fus si reconnaissante, si ravie, qu'un torrent de larmes inonda mon visage. Je sentis encore que j'aimais Dieu, que ma pensée embrassait et acceptait pleinement cet idéal de justice, de tendresse et de sainteté que je n'avais jamais révoqué en doute, mais avec lequel je ne m'étais jamais trouvée en communication directe; je sentis enfin cette communication s'établir soudainement, comme si un obstacle invincible se fût abîmé entre le foyer d'ardeur infinie et le feu assoupi dans mon âme.19

Sand's emotionally-charged description of the experience of grace is not unlike those described by others who have been similarly illumined. It is, of course, difficult to know to what extent she embroidered upon her recollection and recreated an experience that was more poetic, more mystical than its historic reality. But we have no reason to doubt the significance of this religious epiphany; during the next sixty years, despite her highly unconventional existence as a novelist, adulteress, cigar-smoking woman in male clothes, political radical, she never completely lost her faith; indeed, she always wrote and spoke reverently of the religious sentiment as an inborn and beneficent force.

Her adolescent religious conversion had immediate social benefits. Just as identification with "les diables" permitted a reprieve from activities for which she felt herself unready, so too the experience of "conversion" provided a rite of passage into a more socially acceptable young womanhood. She wrote that she had exhausted the resources of a disorderly career and was ready for something else, and with Madame Alicia as her role model, the one and only attractive role was that of a believer. Once converted, Aurore set herself a course of piety and goodness that quite astonished her friends. "J'étais devenue sage, obéissante et laborieuse."20 She entertained for some time the notion of becoming a nun, although with little encouragement from the nuns themselves, who realized that her grandmother had other plans for her grand-daughter—namely, to establish her in a marriage suitable to her station.

This period of intense devotion was critical in Sand's adolescence and in her developing sense of self. It forced her to make choices that entailed identifying with socially acceptable behavior and renouncing behaviors that were considered unacceptable for women. At sixteen when George Sand left the convent, she was, by her own retrospective accounts, a cheerful and pious young woman. She left the convent to live once more with her grandmother, while the latter set about finding her a husband.

From the point of view of Sand's time and culture, adolescence had run its course; a rebellious girl had been suitably tamed and transformed into "une femme." Let us pause to remark that the French word "femme" means both woman and wife. (The French have only one word where we have two). Adolescence was thus implicitly and explicably conceived of as a period of transition from the state of being a child or girl to the state of being a woman and wife. This same supposition underlies the structure of a radically different piece of Sand's writing: La Petite Fadette. In that remarkable story of adolescence among the Berrichon peasants, Sand demonstrates the difficulties of growing up female without the support of family and institutions that socialize a girl into her "proper" role. Because Fadette is essentially a pastoral romance, the heroine's adolescent apprenticeship ends happily with an ideal peasant marriage. As we know, Sand's adolescence also culminated in marriage at the age of nineteen, but her story was not to end there.21


  1. George Sand, Histoire de ma vie in Oeuvres Auto-biographiques [OA], ed. Georges Lubin, 2 Vols. (Paris: Gallimard, 1970). All translations are my own.
  2. Philippe Ariès, Centuries of Childhood, trans. Robert Baldick (New York: Vintage Books, 1962), pp. 29-30.
  3. Ibid., p. 30.
  4. Justin O'Brien, The Novel of Adolescence in France (New York: Columbia University Press, 1937).
  5. Ibid., pp. 12-13.
  6. Much of this work is based upon the collaborative research undertaken by Hellerstein, Hume, Offen, Freedman, Gelpi and Yalom in Victorian Women (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1981).
  7. Ariès, p. 30.
  8. Hellerstein, et al., pp. 91-93.
  9. Ibid., p. 93.
  10. Sand, OA, I, p. 861.
  11. Albertine-Adrienne Necker de Saussure, The Study of the Life of Woman (Philadelphia, 1844). Originally published in Paris in 1838.
  12. Erik Erikson, Identity, Youth and Crisis, (New York: W. W. Norton, 1968).
  13. Sand, OA, I, p. 881.
  14. Ibid., I, p. 921.
  15. For a comparative analysis of female friendship in nineteenth century America, see Caroll Smith-Rosenberg, "The Female World of Love and Ritual: Women in the Nineteenth Century America," Signs, I, 1 (Autumn 1975), pp. 1-29.
  16. Sand, OA, I, p. 869.
  17. Barbara Gelpi, Introduction to Part I, "The Girl," in Hellerstein, et al., p. 15.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Sand, OA, I, pp. 953-954.
  20. Ibid., p. 965.
  21. Between the writing of this essay and its publication four years later, some literary scholars have begun to pay attention to female, as well as male, models of adolescence, for example, Patricia Meyer Spacks, The Adolescent Idea: Myths of Youth and the Adult Imagination (New York: Basic Books, 1981) and Richard N. Coe, When the Grass Was Taller: Autobiography and the Experience of Childhood (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984).


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SOURCE: Dayan, Peter. “Who Is the Narrator in Indiana?” French Studies 52, no. 2 (April 1998): 152-61.

In the following essay, Dayan examines the complex point of view in Indiana in which the male narrator presents a distinctly paternalistic stance.

George Sand’s first novel Indiana has been one of the set texts on our second-year literature course for several years now. It is, on the whole, popular with the students. They like it partly because, unlike the work of the uncontroversially canonized (such as Baudelaire or Flaubert), it provides topics for debate on which the students feel they can take sides, for or against. One such topic has been dividing readers and critics since the novel was first published: the question of the literary desirability of the conclusion. At the end of the fourth part of the novel, we are promised the perfect Romantic lovers’ suicide: Ralph takes Indiana in his arms, ‘et l’emporta pour la précipiter avec lui dans le torrent …’. But, in the conclusion which follows, we find they have decided to live happily ever after instead. This has always been felt by some to be a bold rupture with the realist tradition, and by others to be a let-down, an abdication both of verisimilitude and of Romantic nobility for reasons of unworthy sentimentality. The ‘points de suspension’ at the end of the above quotation, however, do not merely signal the suspension of the realist mode, replaced in the conclusion by the idealist (according to the contrast between realism and idealism so well established by Naomi Schor).1 The conclusion also differs from the rest of the novel in having an intradiegetic first person narrator, whereas the rest of the novel seems to have an extradiegetic omniscient narrator in the Balzacian mould.

In the conclusion, the point of view is strictly, in accordance with the traditional rules governing such narration, that of the narrator. We can only see what he can see. To him, Ralph and Indiana are enigmas, and he clearly knows virtually nothing about them other than through public rumour until Ralph himself tells him their story. The question of point of view in the rest of the novel is more complex and problematic. It is certainly impossible to believe that the apparently omniscient narrator is simply coterminous with George Sand.2 Particularly, even if one could discount the question of gender (he is masculine), he appears to have paternalist ideas concerning the character of women and their proper place in society which are obviously opposed to those of Sand herself. He consistently presents women as intellectually weak and necessarily dependent on men. He never even considers the possibility that a woman could lead the kind of independent life that Sand herself had just embarked on at the time she wrote the book. This possibility emerges in many of the novels Sand wrote in the following decade—André, Jacques, Lélia, Consuelo, for example; but I think it would be uncontroversial to say that, in Indiana, women are unable to imagine a fulfilling life that does not rely on a man as partner, support, or father-figure, or at the very least as interface with the public sphere. Indeed, the very structure of the narrative depends on the assumption that Indiana needs a man to make her happy. We are told near the beginning that this is the case, and that she is dying for want of a lover. Raymon saves her—then betrays her; and final salvation comes through Ralph. Indiana tells the story of a woman who achieves happiness not through independence and self-realization, but by finding the right man. The assumption that she needs a man is never questioned.

In many of Sand’s later novels, there is a fascinating contradiction between the point of view of the narrator and the apparent signification of the events that he describes. One can often analyse this as the product of the friction between the paternalist, realist narrative stance that Sand used to structure her novels, and a more complex human and especially feminine reality that disturbs that structure, often without perturbing the narrator himself. It is fairly easy, in such cases, to tease out a distinction between the author (responsible for the subversive features) and the narrator (responsible for the discourse that attempts, happily and necessarily without success, to suppress the meaning of those subversive features). However, in Indiana there is no such contradiction. The events correspond to and support the discourse. In other words, Indiana, considered on its own, has an ideological coherence that many other Sand novels lack, because there is little internally obvious difference between the narrator and the implied author. If one read the novel without knowing any of Sand’s other work (and since it was her first novel, that is how it was originally read), one would have little reason to suspect that its author’s opinions were in many ways diametrically opposed to those of its narrator; that opposition becomes plain only when one compares the ideas expressed in the novel to those put forward elsewhere by Sand, especially in her letters, articles, and autobiographical writings. Within Indiana, the morals suggested by the events and characters seem, on the whole, to support the views of the narrator (save, as we shall see, in one exceptional passage). One might ask who this narrator is, and why Sand appears to have delegated to him such wide-ranging control over the world view presented in her work. I would like to propose a simple answer to these questions, which also aims to elucidate the relationship between the extradiegetic narrator of the first four parts and the intradiegetic narrator of the conclusion.

Frequently—for example, in Mauprat, Le Dernier Amour, Les Maîtres Sonneurs —Sand begins her novel with a first-person frame narrator who introduces to us one of the novel’s main protagonists, and tells us how that protagonist told him his story; then the frame narrator recounts for us that story, which constitutes the body of the novel. (Thus the first-person frame narrator appears intradiegetic in the frame, but extradiegetic in the main story.) Normally, the story is recounted orally to the frame narrator, and he claims to reproduce with the minimum of editorial intervention the words of the teller; so, in the main part of the text, ‘je’ refers not to the frame narrator, but to the story-telling protagonist who is being quoted more or less verbatim. This is what happens, for example, in Mauprat, or in Le Dernier Amour. However, it is not unknown for the frame narrator to retell the story in the third person, basing it entirely on the information given to him by the protagonist, but not claiming to reproduce exactly the protagonist’s words. This is how La Mare au diable is presented. In the second chapter of that novel, the narrator (who refers to himself as ‘l’auteur’) describes how Germain has told him his story; he then states his intention to write this story down for the benefit of his literate readers. Germain, being an illiterate peasant, ‘n’en saura rien et ne s’en inquiétera guére’. But the narrator will enjoy retelling it. In the retelling, he, the frame narrator, remains in the first person; and Germain, who originally told it, is in the third person.

It is possible to read Indiana in the same way, as a story told to the narrator by Ralph, although in the retelling, Ralph, like Germain, remains in the third person. In the conclusion, the intradiegetic narrator goes to visit Ralph and Indiana at their remote home on the île Bourbon. He describes his main motivation as a desire to learn about Ralph and his history. Just before he leaves, disappointed at having learnt little, he stings Ralph with a tactless remark concerning the islanders’ low opinion of him. Ralph is at first angry, particularly because Indiana, who knows nothing of this low opinion, has overheard the remark; but then he consents to tell all, once Indiana is safely out of the way.

Quand la nuit fut venue, elle se retira dans sa chambre, et sir Ralph, me faisant asseoir à côté de lui sur un banc dans le jardin, me raconta son histoire jusqu’à l’endroit où nous l’avons laissée dans le précédent chapitre.3

The words ‘précédent chapitre’, here, can only refer to the end of the novel’s fourth part. Who, then, is ‘nous’? It seems to me only logical to suppose that it includes ‘vous’ (the addressee, whom one could see as either the reader, or J. Néraud, to whom the conclusion is dedicated, and who is addressed in the second person) and ‘je’, the narrator; in which case we must assume that ‘je’ and ‘vous’ reached the end of the ‘précédent chapitre’ together. This clearly implies that the narrator of the conclusion is the same person as the narrator of the rest of the novel; and that the story in the novel’s first four parts is the one which Ralph told to him on that night in Bourbon. The formal difference between La Mare au diable and Indiana would then be simply this: in the former, we are told at the beginning that the narrator had the story from Germain; in the latter, it is only at the end, in the conclusion, that we discover the relationship between Ralph and the narrator.

But even this discovery, as Kathryn Crecelius says, ‘does not resolve all the ambiguities of the narrative’.4 For in many ways, the attitudes and the narrative strategies of the authoritative and extradiegetic narrator of the first four parts seem incompatible with those of the hesitant and intradiegetic narrator of the conclusion. It is these incompatibilities which lead Robert Godwin-Jones simply to propose that the narrator of the conclusion should not be seen as the same person as the narrator of the first four parts.5 In this, he articulates the gut feeling of the average reader: in my experience, everyone, on a first reading, tends to assume that there are indeed two different narrators, and no one sees any need to conflate them. Nonetheless, as I have shown, and as most critics recognize, the text does explicitly invite us to operate just such a conflation. So are there two narrators in Indiana, or one? This question ceases to be problematic if one understands the sudden change in the narrative approach which distinguishes the conclusion from the rest of the novel as a consequence of the fact that in the first four parts, the narrator is giving us Ralph’s version and interpretation of events, from Ralph’s point of view, though in the third person; whereas in the conclusion, he is speaking in his own voice.

My intention, in this essay, then, is to see what happens when one reads the first four parts of Indiana resolutely and consistently as the transposed narration of Ralph, as Ralph’s story (’son histoire’, as the narrator calls it), a story both about Ralph and told by Ralph, rather than about Indiana and told from the point of view of the narrator. I do not think that a rigorous attempt at such a reading has been made before; and it has wide-reaching implications. The first is that Ralph’s ideology must be assumed to pervade the narrative. And that ideology is certainly not a neutral or uncontroversial one. Ralph is a man of strong views, deeply idealistic, with a much firmer grasp on principle than on reality. We need not, therefore, look in the novel either for an ‘objective’ view, or for George Sand’s (or Indiana’s) view; it is an exercise, sustained with peculiar virtuosity, in reconstructing the world from the point of view of a certain masculine idealism.

Ralph’s opinion concerning the difference between the sexes is clear and almost uncontested in the novel. Women, to him, are less rational, less intelligent than men; they are more generally prone to enthusiasm, to fanaticism, and to deceiving and being deceived. This, of course, corresponds to the traditional Romantic equation of femininity with the heart, and masculinity with the head. In the case of Indiana herself, Ralph has done his best to turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. It was he who brought her up, who was her teacher, guide and mentor; and he gave her the education he thought appropriate to her sex. He taught her to love nature and beauty, but not to reason. (It is perhaps worth remembering that George Sand was also educated by a male tutor— Deschartres; but he gave her a man’s education, very different from Indiana’s.)

Ignorante comme une vraie créole, madame Del-mare […] avait été élevée par sir Ralph, qui avait une médiocre opinion de l’intelligence et du raisonnement chez les femmes, et qui s’était borné à lui donner quelques connaissances positives et d’un usage immédiat. Elle savait donc à peine l’histoire abrégée du monde, et toute dissertation sérieuse l’accablait d’ennui.6

Except, that is, when it is the man she loves who is talking; then ‘la poésie de son langage’ appeals to her. It is not reason which convinces a woman; it is love. This unfortunately means that a woman can be convinced to do irrational and indeed dishonourable things in the name of love, as the fanatic does in the name of religion.

L’amour, c’est la vertu de la femme; c’est pour lui qu’elle se fait une gloire de ses fautes, c’est de lui qu’elle reçoit l’héroïsme de braver ses remords. […] C’est le fanatisme qui met le poignard aux mains du religieux.7

Thus it is, the narrator tells us, the imbecility of woman, her inability to understand the full context of her actions and her willingness to dupe and be duped, that explains the apparent heroism and strength of character of Indiana. She does not, as a man would, think through and face up to the often terrifying social and ideological implications of what she does; that would indeed require exceptional force. But a woman is as untroubled by prescience as by notions of categorical imperatives or collective responsibility. She is able to base her whole world view on ‘un jour de délire’, to see the world not as it is, but as her fantasies would wish it to be; so that in behaving in accordance with those fantasies, she can commit extraordinary acts without extraordinary courage or intellectual merit. (In the following quotation, ‘nous’ obviously refers to men, as opposed to women, and supposes, therefore, that both the narrator and his primary addressee are men.)

La femme est imbécile par nature; il semble que, pour contrebalancer l’éminente supériorité que ses délicates perceptions lui donnent sur nous, le ciel ait mis à dessein dans son cœur une vanité aveugle, une idiote crédulité. […] Voilà ce que je vous répondrais si vous me disiez qu’Indiana est un caractére d’exception […]. Je vous demanderais où vous avez trouvé une femme qui ne fût pas aussi facile à tromper que facile à l’être; qui ne sût pas renfermer dix ans au fond de son cœur le secret d’une espérance risquée si légérement un jour de délire.8

These are the terms in which Indiana is always presented by the narrator. From the very beginning, we are told that she has a dream—that one day a saviour, a ‘libérateur’, a ‘messie’, will appear and spirit her away from her dull life. ‘"Un jour viendra … un homme viendra …"’.9 When she believes Raymon is that man, she is happy; when she loses faith in him, she lives only for death, until she acquires a new faith in Ralph as true saviour. Only once, I think, does this elementary analysis of Indiana’s character fail to account for her words or deeds.

When critics wish to present Indiana as a genuinely progressive feminine character (rather than as the projection of a sexist male imagination or as a simple rebel against oppression), the passage they turn to is the letter which she sends to Raymon from the ile Bourbon.10 In that letter, she describes a quite astonishingly daring and ferociously anti-Catholic and anti-royalist system of beliefs, based on the principle that might must never be confused with right, and that the right to flee is the most fundamental of all. This is revolutionary stuff, and it is doubtless as incompatible with Ralph’s republicanism as with Raymon’s royalism (it foreshadows, in its assertion of the rights of the individual against the rule of the collectivity, Sand’s later anti-Jacobinism). Surely it shows that Indiana is by no means a stranger to philosophical, religious and political speculation. Furthermore, she is also well aware of the gap between her ideals and reality. She has no illusions concerning the likely realization of her dreams, she analyses lucidly the circumstances in which she was able to believe that Raymon would sacrifice all for her, and she is clearly capable of seeing through and refuting his arguments in self-justification. This contrasts strangely with the way she had been presented to us, as a ‘faible femme’ buffeted by circumstance, and at the mercy of Raymon’s flattery.

If one takes it that the narrator’s point of view is Ralph’s, the exceptional status of this letter becomes explicable. It is used by Sand as a device to give Indiana, just once in the novel, a chance to speak for herself, and to allow us to judge to what extent her future partner does her justice. The narrator’s reaction (which, I repeat, I take as synonymous with Ralph’s) is indeed revealing. He sees in the letter nothing more than another manifestation of her feeble-mindedness. The words that follow it are: ‘L’infortunée se vantait’; and the following paragraph is the one beginning ‘La femme est imbécile par nature’, which I have quoted and discussed above. In fact, he ignores the content of four-fifths of the letter. He does not comment at all on its ideological or intellectual implications. To him, its sense is this: Indiana is trying to persuade Raymon that she is now in a state of ‘douleur profonde et calme’, and has ceased to long for him. It is on that interpretation of the letter that he bases his affirmation that she ‘se vantait’, and is easily deceived; after all, with hindsight, he knows that she will soon succumb to Raymon’s wiles again. But is that really what she says in the letter? Surely not. She speaks neither of ‘profondeur’ nor of ‘calme’; she says only: ‘ma douleur est digne de l’amour que j’eus pour vous’ … which, given the violently paradoxical nature of that love as she has just described it, certainly does not suggest a stable resignation. In fact, I would suggest that she is well aware of the weakness of her position. She knows full well what no man in the novel will admit: that as a woman, she would be able to realize herself fully only if she could escape from them all—for all of them see woman as subject to their law. But she also knows that escape is impossible. She cannot obey the laws of God; she must submit to the law of man. That submission will be a derogation; but she can have no life without it.

En me soumettant, c’est au pouvoir des hommes que je cède. Si j’écoutais la voix que Dieu a mise au fond de mon cœur, et ce noble instinct d’une nature forte et hardie, qui peut-être est la vraie conscience, je fuirais au désert, je saurais me passer d’aide, de protection et d’amour; j’irais vivre pour moi seule au fond de nos belles montagnes […]. Mais, hélas! l’homme ne peut se passer de son semblable, et Ralph lui-même ne peut pas vivre seul.11

The narrator ignores this deep and eternally frustrated longing for independence, and continues to present Indiana as a ‘faible femme’ in need of a strong man. Certainly, Indiana is unable to do what Sand herself did (and many of her female protagonists, such as Thérése, in Elle et Lui ; Geneviéve, in André, Consuelo and Jeanne, in the novels named after them): she cannot work for a living, and thereby acquire a social status of her own. But the reason for that is surely simple. One cannot work if one has no education and no skills. Indiana has none because of the way she was brought up—by Ralph. Ralph has thus made her dependent; at the end of the novel, he plainly means to keep her dependent; and in the story as he tells it, all evidence that she might not want to be dependent has been erased—except in the letter to Raymon, which, we may assume, is quoted verbatim, and has thus not been filtered through Ralph’s eyes. The narrator is clearly aware that the letter’s content needs to be belittled; he does not, however, see any need to take account of its real message.

Indiana’s character, then, is presented by the narrator as constant, coherent, and fairly simple. Her circumstances change dramatically in the course of the novel, but her personality does not; the portrait of her that we receive in the first part remains valid. One could say the same of Delmare, of Raymon, indeed of all the characters in the book with one exception: Ralph; and this seems to me one of the clearest indications of the special relationship between Ralph and the narrator. Ralph remains an enigma almost until the end of the fourth part. He is an enigma to the reader, in that his behaviour is clearly not fully explained. But he also seems, strangely, to be an enigma to the narrator, challenging the latter’s omniscience. Indeed, it is possible to put together quite an impressive catalogue of instances in which Ralph’s behaviour seems to be either ignored or flatly contradicted by the narratorial commentary, whereas explanations are always forthcoming where the other characters are concerned. I shall take just two examples. Right at the beginning of the book, in the opening scene, we are given first a long portrait of Delmare, which subsequent events confirm; then an equally prophetic portrait of Indiana; and then a portrait of Ralph of which practically every detail turns out to be a red herring. He appears physically handsome, ‘dans toute la force et dans toute la fleur de la jeunesse’, elegant, self-satisfied, ‘vermeil et blond’, ‘dormeur et bien mangeant’; but ‘fade’ and ‘monotone’, passionless and cold as his English origins would stereotypically suggest. In fact, we learn later that he has led a complex and tormented life, is emotionally old before his time, indeed ‘flétri’, exists in a permanent state of internal turmoil and self-contradiction, cares nothing for public opinion, and is, without exception, the most obsessively passionate character in the book, as well as the one with the greatest capacity to vary his appearance and social role. One is tempted to say that the portrait is designed to deceive. But the most extreme example of deception occurs halfway through the book, when Indiana is telling Raymon about Ralph’s life, and how he approached her husband to ask for permission to come and live with them.

’Monsieur, lui dit-il, j’aime votre femme; c’est moi qui l’ai élevée; je la regarde comme ma sœur, et plus encore comme ma fille. C’est la seule parente qui me reste et la seule affection que j’aie. Trouvez bon que je me fixe auprès de vous et que nous passions tous trois notre vie ensemble. […] Quand je vous aurai donné ma parole que je n’eus jamais d’amour pour elle et que je n’en aurai jamais, vous pourrez me voir avec aussi peu d’inquiétude que si j’étais réellement votre beau-frère. N’est-il pas vrai, monsieur?’12

This is quite simply a lie, as we discover at the end of the novel. He had always loved her. But the curious fact is not that a character should lie; after all, Raymon lies often enough. It is that, throughout, the narrator presents Ralph as a paragon of probity; and yet this lie is allowed to pass without comment. Obviously, the narrator simply does not want to tell us the truth either about Ralph’s emotions, or about his character, which, given his ability first to tell and then to sustain this lie, must be much more complex than is ever suggested. Why not? There is one obvious answer: to maintain suspense and tension in the book. We slowly discover, one step ahead of Indiana all the way, that Ralph is not what he seems, and that despite appearances he is destined to be her soul-mate, for ‘c’était lui qu’il aurait fallu aimer’.13 But if one accepts my suggestion that the narrator is merely a front for Ralph, another reason, more essential, emerges.

However honest Ralph may be in other ways, he is in most circumstances constitutionally incapable of telling the truth about himself. Particularly, he can never engage in meaningful dialogue. In all the conversations he has, he turns out to have been playing a role which betrays his true nature. That nature can only emerge in narrative monologue. Furthermore, that monologue cannot be internal; Ralph needs a sympathetic and admiring ear. His first such monologue comes at the end of part IV, when he tells his story to Indiana. His second is the tale he tells to the narrator in the conclusion, and which, I have been suggesting, serves as the basis for the whole novel. Why should Ralph thus refuse both dialogue and self-analysis in the abstract? Naturally, it is partly because his circumstances make it impossible for him to tell the truth without causing scandal. But a broader consideration of the refusal of dialogue and of self-analysis in Sand’s work suggests a more organic explanation. There is a whole class of characters in her novels who are apparently unable or unwilling to discuss their thoughts and feelings with others. These characters are necessarily, in one sense, not central; they cannot have the main speaking part in the book, for they speak little. However, they exert a certain fascination on those around them. They often inspire passionate attachments, sometimes temporary, sometimes permanent; above all, they have a curious ability to appear somehow more authentic, more real, than those who readily express themselves. They tend thus to become the centre of gravity of the work. I have in mind, for example, Marie in La Mare au diable, or la petite Fadette; Edmée, in Mauprat ; Félicie, in Le Dernier Amour ; Jeanne, in Jeanne ; Boisguilbault, in Le Péche de Monsieur Antoine. There is a parallel to be drawn, though I have not the space to do it here, between their mutism, and that which Sand so frequently attributes to herself, not least in Histoire de ma vie. Mutism, loss of voice, frequently equates with loss or lack of social power, as Isabelle Hoog Naginski shows.14 But it also signifies hidden depths; and it is an unquestioned tenet of Romantic fiction that a character with hidden depths is more interesting than a character who is clearly explained. Ralph, in Indiana, alone has these depths; his is the only character that one cannot appreciate without not only re-reading, but also careful reconstruction. In that sense, reading Indiana means discovering Ralph. The other characters appear simple, because that is how Ralph sees them. He does not, however, see himself as simple. Like most people, he is able to pigeon-hole others, but he can only conceive of himself through narrative, through the story of how he became what he is; static portraits always seem betrayals to the sitter. It is, then, because Ralph is the hidden narrator that he appears qualitatively different from the other characters. Indiana is indeed Ralph’s story—not only the tale he tells, but also the narrative that constitutes him. And that is the reason for what one might call the inversion of the frame in the novel. Why is it only at the end that we discover who told the story? and why is Ralph in the third person, not the first? Because the novel traces his acquisition of a voice. At the beginning, he has none; he is unable even to think thoughts worthy of expression. It is only when he becomes able to live (or die) according to his ideals that he acquires the capacity to establish his personality in language, by speaking himself through narrative. Central to those ideals, as to that narrative, is a certain status relative to woman: Ralph needs a ‘femme faible’ to love and protect, he needs to save a woman from the world. Indiana gives him the opportunity to do so. It is her submission to him that gives him a history and therefore a voice; before that, he had been divorced from his own first person.


1. In George Sand and Idealism (New York, Columbia University Press, 1993). Kristina WingÅrd Vareille analyses similarly the ‘rupture franche avec le code “réaliste” que constitue la fin’; see her Socialité, sexualité et les impasses de l’histoire: L’évolution de la thématique sandienne d’’Indiana’ à ‘Mauprat’ (Uppsala, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 1987), p. 61.

2. As many critics have pointed out; see, for example, Robert Godwin-Jones, Romantic Vision: The Novels of George Sand (Birmingham, AL, Summa Publications, 1995), p. 15.

3. George Sand, Indiana ed. Béatrice Didier, Folio (Paris, Gallimard, 1984), p. 339. All references will be to this edition.

4. In Family Romances (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 62.

5. See R. Godwin-Jones, op. cit., p. 303, n. 15. I am grateful to Nigel Harkness for bringing the critical debate on this matter to my attention.

6. Indiana, p. 174.

7. Ibid., p. 279.

8. Ibid., pp. 251-52.

9. Ibid., p. 89.

10. See, for example, R. Godwin-Jones, op. cit., p. 24; I. Hoog Naginski, George Sand: Writing for her Life (New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 1991), p. 73; K. WingÅrd Vareille, op. cit., pp. 54-55; K. Crecelius, op. cit., p. 72.

11. Indiana, p. 250.

12. Ibid., p. 159.

13. Ibid., p. 330.

14. Op. cit., pp. 218-20. Although Naginski does not go so far as to see Ralph as the source of the narrative perspective, her analysis of the novel as a narrative of the acquisition of speech does lead her to view Ralph as in many ways its emblematic character, ‘la grande figure du livre’ (p. 76).


SOURCE: Massardier-Kenney, Françoise. "Victimization in Indiana and Jacques. "In Gender in the Fiction of George Sand, pp. 15-52. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi, 2000.

In the following excerpt, Massardier-Kenney explores Sand's presentation and treatment of female protagonists in her fiction, particularly the novel Indiana.

George Sand's life-long investigation of the meaning of "woman" and her questioning of the hierarchical binary oppositions between men and women is evident in her first novel, the famous Indiana (1832) and the lesser known fine epistolary novel Jacques (1834). In these two works, Sand began to lay bare the cultural mechanisms responsible for gender inequalities and began a pattern of using ambiguous protagonists in order to bring attention to the incoherence of established gender positions. Sand's first novel (1832) attracted considerable attention when it was first published and is one of the few among her works to be systematically discussed by contemporary critics. In 1832, critics focused on its realism and compared it to the work of Stendhal, while recent critics have perceived it as Sand's attempt to find a literary voice separate from realism (i.e., something called "idealism"). As Sandy Petrey has demonstrated in his analysis of the critical reception of 1832, Indiana's appeal at the time was a "realist" appeal whereby the novel shows that life is formed by forces that vary with time and place, and it is also the reason for its appeal now: gender is one of the "components of human existence that vary with time, place and customs" (134); and gender is interrelated with genre.1

However, beyond the continuity of its appeal, Indiana continues to give rise to opposite interpretations of what Sand's novel says about gender matters and what character is used to represent Sand's position. In Working for Her Life, Isabelle Naginski has argued that the novel registers Sand's new found literary voice, which is embodied by the character of Ralph2; whereas Marilyn Lukacher reads Indiana as the impossible attempt to choose between two mother figures: Sand's aristocratic grandmother and her plebeian mother and sees a parallel, not between Sand and Ralph, but between Sand and Raymon3. Some critics see the end of the novel where Ralph and Indiana escape to the idyllic setting of Bernica, as a flaw in a realist text4 while others attempt to justify the ending as befitting an idealist and/or a feminist text. For instance, in his justification of the end, Nigel Harkness rereads Indiana as proposing an essentialist view and the end as claiming a feminist silence5, while Petrey demonstrates that the novel is based on a constructivist notion of gender. Last, some, like Leslie Rabine, argue that Sand represents woman as passive and chaste (i.e., as reproducing a conservative nineteenth-century ideology) while others, like Kathryn Crecelius, point out that Sand shows how "religious, social, and political systems combine to oppress women" (73)6. Kristina Wingard Vareille also stresses the importance of Sand's critique of marriage and of the condition of women in Indiana but also points out that this critique is not limited to women since Sand shows that men almost as much as women are victimized by traditional marriage.7

These varied and sometimes contradictory interpretations stem from the novel's own contradictions and from a number of narrative shifts that prevent critical attempts to interpret it as a coherent narrative because precisely the novel's theme is the incoherence of gender positions. In Indiana Sand is analyzing and bringing to the surface mechanisms of victimization based on gender, race, and class and is questioning the stability of gender boundaries that buttress power inequalities through a systematic undermining of narrative authority and consistency. Although the final episode of the plot is usually the place where the disruption of the "idealist" is perceived, Sand has undermined the coherence of her own narrative well before the end through the manipulation of the omniscient narrator and through contradictory presentations of characters.

Although interpretations of Indiana vary greatly, there seems to be a critical consensus about the fact that the final episode of Indiana is an idealist happy ending. Whether critics approve of it or criticize it for its switch in mode, they consider what happens after the scene where Ralph and Indiana leap to their death a positive outcome: the protagonists don't die and live together happily ever after. However, their lives on a secluded plantation where they employ old or weak former slaves that they have freed may seem an "idealist" or "happy" solution only if readers identify with the patriarchal omniscient narrator. For this final episode obliterates the character of Indiana who becomes passive and silent8. The narrative is made by the male narrator for a male friend as recounted by Ralph the male protagonist who thus becomes the hero of the novel.

Indiana's transformation from a rebellious and articulate victim9 into a sweet and languid character [according to the narrator, her eyes have a "douceur incomparable / unique sweetness" (337) and her manners have "quelque chose de lent et de triste qui est naturel aux créoles / something slow and sad that comes naturally to creole women" (337)] starts with the suicide scene where Ralph not only takes over discourse and recounts his long hidden passion for her but also directs all their actions ["il prit sa fiancée dans ses bras et l'emporta pour la précipiter avec lui dans le torrent / he took his fiancée in his arms and led her away to hurl her with him in the torrent" (330)]. The following "idyllic" episode repeats this pattern whereby Ralph controls discourse and action. When the narrator alludes to gossip concerning them among the colonists, Ralph silences him, and once Indiana is out of earshot, he accepts to tell his story "je vous dirai mon histoire, mais pas devant Indiana. Il est des blessures qu'il ne faut pas réveiller / I shall tell you my story, but not in front of Indiana. There are wounds that should not be reopened." (338) [note that he refers to it as his story, not hers], repeating a pattern of silence and withdrawal of information justified by the mistaken goal of protecting weak women. All of a sudden, Indiana's story has become Ralph's story and the novel ends with a dramatic shift away from the mechanisms of victimization of women to the emergence of the male Romantic hero.

While Ralph's own victimization and opposition to patriarchal structures may explain some critics' acceptance of his Romantic positioning as representing the voice of the author, his participation in those very patriarchal power structures and his final effective silencing of Indiana should warn the readers that identifying the author's position may be more difficult than the surface narrative would lead us to expect.

Ralph's surprising and seductive transformation into a passionate, articulate opponent of the debased values of Restoration society, and his endorsement by the omniscient narrator trap the readers into glossing over Indiana's erasure and, more importantly, into ignoring Sand's careful construction of Ralph as a character who participates in the victimization of women even though he is himself the victim of patriarchal law and even though, as Doris Kadish has noticed, he has been "symbolically emasculated and feminized through analogy with women, slaves, and members of oppressed groups" (27).

Sand's association of Ralph with some feminized traits, however, must be seen as part of her attempt to show that the unequal status of the two "sexes" is not based on any natural division but is a complex set of gender positions occupied by men and women who have different amounts of control over their lives. To see that Ralph is silent and submissive (i.e., positioned as a woman) does not mean that he represents the voice of the author. An examination of Ralph's history and personality reveals both his victimization and the extent of his participation in the structures that disenfranchise most women. Thus Sand's construction of Ralph is paradoxical.

Sand uses the omniscient narrator to present Ralph in a deceiving and ultimately inconsistent way. As Crecelius has noted, the presentation of Ralph gives rise to "certain inconsistencies" (77) because he is presented from the point of view of Indiana rather than in an objective way, as Sand's use of an omniscient narrator would lead the readers to expect. I would argue that the entire presentation of Ralph is suspect. The details describing Ralph given at the beginning of the novel consistently undermine the portrait made later. The Ralph of the beginning of the novel is characterized by the omniscient narrator as a well fed, dull character, an "homme dormeur et bien mangeant" (51). His features are "régulièrement fades / regularly dull" (51), his portrait in Indiana's room is insignificant and "only the original is more insignificant than the portrait" (108); still according to the narrator Indiana's and Ralph's personalities are totally incompatible (51). Moreover, Ralph is presented as a friend of Delmare, Indiana's tyrannical husband. Ralph also despises women as the narrator's description of his innermost thoughts indicate. When Ralph expresses his distrust of rhetoric as opposed to ideas (in the idealist belief, one assumes, that ideas can be evaluated separately from the language in which they are articulated), he blames women especially for paying more attention to form than to content, and for being highly susceptible to flattery. Indiana's reaction to his remarks "vous avez un profond dédain pour les femmes / you have a great disdain for women" (58) correctly interprets his comments as expressing his belief in the inferiority of women.

When Noun, Indiana's servant becomes agitated upon hearing that Delmare is out with a gun and risks wounding her secret lover Raymon de Ramière, and when Indiana also shows concern, the narrator makes us privy to Ralph's thoughts "Ces deux femmes sont folles, pensa Sir Ralph. D'ailleurs ajouta-t-il en lui-même, toutes les femmes le sont / these two women are crazy, thought Sir Ralph. Anyway, he thought on to himself, all women are" (61). He adds later "Quelles misérables terreurs de femmes / what miserable women terrors" (62). This is the same Ralph who at the end of the novel is presented as Indiana's ideal lover and interpreted as Sand's voice.

Furthermore, the theme of women's ignorance and specifically of Indiana's ignorance is linked throughout the novel to Ralph's conception of women as intellectually deficient. When, near the end of the novel, Ralph finally tells Indiana of his passion for her and recounts his role in her life: "Je fis de vous ma soeur, ma fille, ma compagne, mon élève, ma société/I made you my sister, my daughter, my companion, my student, my community" (316), the reader may be seduced by his passionate language (his "rhetoric") and forget that it is Ralph's upbringing that has made Indiana into an ignorant person whose subsequent intellectual weakness confirms his patriarchal belief about women's innate inferiority. As the omniscient narrator had reminded the reader, Indiana had been brought up by Ralph "qui avait une médiocre opinion de l'intelligence et du raisonnement chez les femmes … Elle savait donc à peine l'histoire agrégée du monde et toute discussion sérieuse l'accablait d'ennui / who had a poor opinion of women's intelligence and capacity for reasoning … Thus she hardly knew any world history and any serious discussion bored her to tears" (174). This reminder by the narrator about Ralph's responsibility in Indiana's lack of intellectual maturity not only contradicts the same narrator's later endorsement of Ralph but is part of the novel's insistence on the role of men's prejudice in propagating women's ignorance and then blaming them for it. Sand ties the question of women's ignorance to the mechanisms of victimization through which knowledge is withheld from disenfranchised groups, be they women, servants or slaves. Because of her class, Indiana has at least learned to read and write as her letters to Raymon indicate. However, such is not the case for her servant and friend Noun; she makes a number of spelling errors in her letter to the same Raymon, who, upon receiving her letter, decides to leave her as such lack of control of French grammar clearly marks Noun's social inferiority and reminds him of the impossibility of continuing his affair with her.

The withholding of knowledge and of information because of the male characters' belief in the inability of women to understand the information is not the sole prerogative of Ralph; it characterizes all the male characters who have some power but it indicates that Ralph participates in the reproduction of patriarchal structures that are inimical to women. Besides his denial of education to Indiana, who is his sole love and anchor, Ralph also withholds from her crucial information about Noun and Raymon. In agreement with Delmare, Ralph keeps silent about the fact that Indiana's friend and maid is having a secret affair with Raymon, and thus further isolates Noun and allows Indiana to fall prey to Raymon's schemes. Similarly, at the end of the novel, he prevents the narrator from repeating what he has heard in order to protect Indiana as if she were a child. Ralph's role in denying women access to knowledge is incompatible with interpreting him as an ideal androgynous character. On the contrary it suggests that weak and silent characters may participate in their own victimization, as we shall see with Indiana' and Noun's attitudes toward their lover.

Even the facts of Ralph's early life as recounted by Indiana suggest Ralph's acquiescence and implication in the victimization of women. Significantly, it is Indiana who tells Ralph's story, in contrast to the end of the novel where Ralph is in control of the narrative. Indiana recounts to Raymon Ralph's first unhappy years during which he is rejected by his parents who prefer his less shy and more demonstrative older brother. Ralph is so depressed by his life that he is on the verge of committing suicide by drowning in the ocean10 when he sees his young cousin Indiana (then five years old) who runs to him and hugs him. He decides to live for her and to take care of her (158). Ralph is thus saved from despair by the love of a child. As an adolescent he takes care of the orphaned Indiana, but after his own brother's death, he is forced to marry his brother's fiancee for unspecified family reasons (the reader assumes it is a financial arrangement between the two families). Ralph leaves for England with his wife who loved his brother and abhors him; has a son, and returns to the island of Bourbon after the death of his wife and son. Raymon, to whom Indiana is recounting this story, astutely wonders why Ralph didn't marry Indiana and she invokes her lack of wealth as a reason. The narrative of Ralph's life emphasizes the necessity of having a child-like woman for the melancholy hero to survive, but also Ralph's own victimization. The novel represents the patriarchal pattern of victimization which includes women, slaves, and men who don't occupy a position of power. Ralph is the second son, rejected by his parents and forced to marry for social and financial reasons while Indiana is also ignored by her relatives and married off to a much older man. In both cases families have broken down and have lost their protective vocation. Family structure is presented as the occasion to consolidate power positions. The pervasive corruption of the traditional family in which fathers no longer protect and mothers no longer nurture indicate Sand's conviction that the oppression of the weak—children, women, men, slaves—is endemic to the Restoration society she represents and that, by the logic of their own participation in such family structures, her characters can turn oppressors too.

By agreeing to marry his dead brother's betrothed, even though he knows of her love for his brother, Ralph puts himself in the position of a Delmare. Moreover, since Ralph had a son with this woman, whereas the question of Delmare's actually consummating his marriage with Indiana is left ambiguous, the reader must assume that Ralph forced himself on his wife to produce an heir or at least that he consumed his union knowing of her repulsion. Ralph's consent to marry is explained by his unwillingness to be disowned by his father (by which one assumes he will be disinherited since he has already been rejected emotionally by his parents).

Thus his allegiance to patriarchal values and his participation in oppressive practices, and his long lasting contempt for women must not be forgotten even in the context of his being later presented as the prototypical melancholy and isolated Romantic hero of the "idyllic" end of the novel. Ironically, Ralph is the character who had claimed the superiority of actions and ideas over words, but who is absolved because of his final control of the narrative. The complexity of Ralph's role, the mix of victim and victimizer allows Sand to show the difficulty of escaping oppression as long as human beings accept binary systems of opposition whereby one category is posed as inferior to the other (women to men, slaves to masters). By luring the reader into accepting Ralph as the "idealist" solution to Indiana's fate, by carefully constructing him as the Romantic figure who finally comes to speech, Sand problematizes any notion of liberation that is not accompanied by a radical rethinking of gender and social categories. Ralph loves and saves Indiana but his adherence to paternalistic views of women condemns him to play the role of a traditional husband, one surely more palatable than the old, tyrannical Delmare, but still one which spells the end of Indiana's psychological and moral autonomy.11

This interiorization of patriarchal values by characters who articulate their opposition to the political or social aspects of these structures is shared by women characters as well, an idea to which Sand will return on several occasions and even more pointedly in later novels and which explains in part her reluctance to accept the category "women" as a rallying point because this very notion of woman often stands, as she demonstrates, for definitions of women articulated by and for the benefit of patriarchal subjects.

Women characters in Indiana follow Ralph's pattern of rebellion against the patriarchy while internalizing its norm or simply accepting and reproducing these structures if their position on the power scale allows it. Sand uses a range of women to show their implication in these oppressive practices: from a wealthy aristocrat (Laure de Nagy) to a servant who is possibly a former slave (Noun).

At one end of the power spectrum, Laure de Nagy who marries Raymon because he has the right pedigree and she can control him, occupies the position of "male" power. As Petrey has noticed, "the power granted Laure by historical changes affects nothing less than the obliteration of male hegemony" (141), but it is not so much male hegemony that is obliterated as the demonstration that gender performance has replaced notions of natural biological sexual differences to found inequalities. Laure de Nagy performs as a male. The obliteration of the power of the individual male leaves the structure intact. The character of Laure occupies a "masculine" position and thus further demonstrates the constructedness of notions of masculinity and femininity. Her social and economic position (an orphan from an old noble family who has been adopted by a rich industrialist), gives her the power to assess the desirability of potential male partners and to decide whom she will marry. Even before she becomes a major character, Sand introduces her as one of the spectators and commentators at the ball where Raymon recognizes Indiana and starts flirting with her. While Indiana innocently falls for Raymon's attentions, Laura watches him and invites gossip and information about him in a scene that inverts gender roles by placing her as the subject gazing. Laura's biological sexual identity is compensated by her social position; her gender role is that of male domination in contrast to Indiana's lower position and victimization, and later adoption of female submission. By providing these opposite examples of feminine performance, a tactic she will use as well in the novels discussed in subsequent chapters, Sand suggests that masculinity and femininity are positions that are linked to social and economic power more than to "nature" and that they could be negotiated. Sand shows that these gender inequalities are enforced through external pressures and through internal mechanisms (when individuals internalize imposed definitions and come to consider them natural, i.e., women can't think, women are weak, women are natural mothers, etc).

Whereas Laure de Nagy's mental attitude is one of extreme power, Indiana's and Noun's reflect their inferior status and their ultimate acceptance of their inferiority. The orphan Indiana, daughter of an impoverished noble family was given to a much older man (she is sixteen and he is sixty), ex-soldier turned business man whose money endeared him to her relatives, whereas Noun is a servant who follows Indiana wherever she moves. Although we are given no details (we don't know whether Noun's mother was a slave or free, or even whether Noun is black), her position as a domestic is clear and provides a more pronounced version of Indiana's own situation of servitude.

What is less evident is the importance of servitude in shaping these characters' own attitudes. Indiana may denounce the inequity of the laws that allow her husband's domination but when she leaves Bourbon to join Raymon, she can only speak in terms of abjection and servitude "c'est ton esclave que tu as rappelée de l'exil / here is your slave that you called back from exile" (296), and "Je viens pour te donner du bonheur, pour être ce que tu voudras, ta compagne, ta servante ou ta maîtresse / I come to give you some happiness, to be what you want, your companion, your servant or your mistress" (296), "je suis ton bien, tu es mon maître / Iam your thing, you are my master" (297). Indiana's discourse, which is steeped in the vocabulary of slavery and which is a part of a pattern where relationships between men and women are described with a vocabulary of enslavement and subjection, reveals Sand's understanding of the mechanisms of subjection: the long-lasting subjection and state of ignorance in which women have been forced to live have resulted in their acceptance and internalization of the hierarchical structures that created their bondage; as a result, even when these structures of coercion are removed (i.e., when Indiana escapes from her husband), the women characters retain a mental frame that conceptualizes "love" as bondage or as a relation of inequality.

When Noun attempts to regain Raymon's favors after she finds out that she is pregnant, she rejects his offers of financial support and uses the same metaphors that Indiana would later use. She even proposes to Raymon to work as his servant (as she is already his mistress, it is the only position that she can envision). She tells him "Je ne suis pas exigeante; je n'ambitionne point ce qu'une autre à ma place aurait peut-être eu l'art d'obtenir. Mais permettez-moi d'être votre servante / Iam not demanding; I don't hope for what another woman in my place would have been artful enough to obtain. But allow me to be your servant." (110). So while Noun feels insulted by Raymon's offer of money (an offer which clearly means the end of their relationship), she is ready to surrender her whole being in order to be next to him. Isabelle Naginski has remarked that Noun is almost without speech (64) but actually it is the force of her eloquence that convinces Raymon not to break up as he intended. The narrator's comment on her appeal "Noun parla longtemps ainsi. Elle ne se servit peut-être pas des mêmes mots, mais elle dit les mêmes choses, bien mieux, cent fois que je ne pourrais les redire / Noun spoke thus for a long time. She perhaps did not use exactly the same words, but she said the same things, much better, a hundred times better than I could repeat them" (102). Noun may use the language of female subjection as Naginski and others have argued, but it is an extremely articulate language that describes accurately that state of mental bondage that characterizes women who don't benefit from a social position that can counterbalance gender positions. Indiana's and Noun's statements both articulate their acceptance that what they are is defined by what the male other wants. Indiana's "Je serai ce que tu voudras / I will be what you want" (296) echoes Noun's "Je me hais puisque je ne vous plais plus / I hate myself since I no longer please you" (102). The grammatical slip of the "what" instead of a "who" indicates the extent of Indiana's vision of herself as an object rather than as a subject, even in a situation which is the result of her will and of remarkable determination and courage.

In Indiana, love is thus presented as another locus for women's oppression. Not surprisingly Laure de Nagy, the only powerful woman in the novel, rejects the idea of "love" because she knows that, paradoxically, her wealth will make it impossible for her to disentangle genuine affection from ambition or greed. The ignorant and powerless Indiana and Noun who embrace romantic notions of love are destroyed by their acceptance of love as a relation that disempowers them. Whether this love includes a sexual relation or not, it is a negative experience12. The sexual relation just increases the chance that the woman will be victimized more quickly, as happens with Noun or with the other women that Raymon has discredited. Sexuality, like romantic love and marriage, has no positive ideological function in Indiana. The new order proposed at the end of the novel is very problematic as the previous analysis of its implication has shown. Although Kristina Wingard argues that Sand discretely suggests that Ralph and Indiana consummate their union13 and that Indiana can finally accept her sexuality without danger or suffering, the final episode is curiously ambiguous about their status as a couple. This ambiguity reflects Sand's own ambiguity about the limits of the figure of Ralph as a solution. Her heroes are cut off from the external social structures of the world but they have interiorized gender roles. Thus the question of sexuality is erased14. Criticism of Sand for representing Indiana as a chaste bourgeoise fails to notice that Sand presents all the scenarios possible for a woman: marriage with sex (Laure de Nagy), love and sex (Noun), love without sex (Indiana), and that none of these scenarios can be fulfilling because of the power structure15.

Sand's commitment to providing her readers with a constructivist conception of gender is such that the novel presents an unusual number of women who either are not mothers (thus whose lives as women contradicts traditional conceptions of "femininity" that rely on maternity as its linchpin or who as mothers or mother figures function as agents of reproduction of the social order. Sand's deconstruction of stable gender categories includes a reexamination of the roles of mothers in the reproduction of patriarchy and femininity.

First of all maternity and the ability to procreate among women of child bearing age is associated with death. Ralph's wife and his young son are dead by the beginning of the novel and, of course, Noun commits suicide while pregnant because her lover Raymon no longer wishes to carry on their affair. The other protagonists who are young women and who survive—Indiana and Laure de Nagy—are both childless and their own mothers are dead, an interesting coincidence if one recalls Sand's discussion of gender differences in which she mentions maternity as the only difference separating the sexes.

The older women who are actual mothers (for instance, Raymon's mother) or who are mother substitutes (Mme de Carvajal, Indiana's aunt) are both aristocrats who are presented as opportunistic survivors of political and social upheavals or as educating their male offsprings to be victimizers. Mme de Carjaval, who has ignored her niece, starts to show her much affection when she realizes that Delmare has become a successful businessman ("Madame de Carvajal aux yeux de qui la fortune était la première recommendation, témoigna beaucoup d'affection à sa nièce et lui promit le reste de son héritage / Madame de Carvajal who considered wealth of foremost importance, showed her niece much affection and promised her the rest of her inheritance" (86). The details of her life provided by the narrator draw the portrait of an opportunist for whom fortune and appearances are foremost: a widowed Spanish aristocrat who was an admirer of Napoleon, she has made a fortune speculating on the stock market and, according to the narrator "A force d'esprit, d'intrigues et de dévotion elle avait obtenu, en outre, les faveurs de la cour / Through her wit, schemes, and devotion she had moreover obtained the favors of the court" (85). Mme de Carjaval uses her pretty niece Indiana to attract young fashionable men to her salon. She sees no objection to her niece's involvement with Raymon but is ready to disown her when gossip about their alleged affair threatens to break out and sully her reputation as a pious older woman. Sand's biting portrait of Mme de Carjaval as a crafty maneuverer who adopts the current ideologies (religiousness and the monarchy) and who gains power and money shows how little room there is to nurture and protect younger women like Indiana. These characters represent such disparate human types (one powerful, savvy, and independent; the other powerless, naive, and ignorant) that the fact that they are both women becomes irrelevant and cannot lead to any allegiance based on their sex.

In fact, Sand's presentation of women protagonists who belong to an older generation suggests that what these older women nurture is the reproduction of the very patriarchal structures that allow younger women without power to be bartered and exploited. An analysis of the presentation of Raymon's mother also shows the care with which Sand constructed her not as the positive character which most critics have seen, but as a very ambiguous, misguided, not to say negative, figure16. Sand's portrait of Raymon's mother as a good mother is ironic since that characteristic is always invoked in the context of his mistreatment of women. When the narrator describes Raymon's desertion of the pregnant Noun, he links his action to a class prejudice "Pour lui, une grisette n'était pas une femme / for him a grisette was not a woman" (75), which the narrator exonerates by commenting "Tout cela n'était pas la faute de Raymon; on [read his mother since his father has been long dead] l'avait élevé pour le monde / All this was not Raymon's fault; he had been brought up for fashionable society" (75). His mother is held responsible for his considering lower class women sub-human and not warranting the treatment reserved to "women," that is women of one's class who can provide social and financial alliances.

Thus in Indiana … being a woman has a host of different meanings depending on the class to which an individual woman belongs. The higher the class, the more power she has and the less she shares with other women. The disparity of interests between younger poorer women and older artistocratic women is emphasized by Raymon's reactions to Noun after he attempts to break off with her. The omniscient narrator explains Raymon's eagerness to get rid of Noun by invoking his mother "Il en coûtait à Raymon de tromper une si bonne mère / It was difficult for Raymon to deceive such a good mother" (76).

Raymon's mother is thus directly linked to his treatment of Noun. The narrator follows with an ironically positive portrait of Raymon's mother as a woman with intellectual and moral qualities who has given him "ces excellents principes qui le ramenaient toujours au bien / those excellent principles that always brought him back to good" (78). Since the reader was just told how Raymon avoids responsibility [that would be the "bien" to which he returns] by invoking the need to spare his mother, the principles that his mother has taught him are reduced to simple narcissism17. Sand thus uses the omniscient narrator to say one thing but to mean another. The positive portrait of Raymon's mother seems to be used to excuse the behavior of the son but actually serves to implicate his mother in his corruption.

The ambiguity of the role of Raymon's mother is further developed through the narrator's comments alluding to the vicissitudes of her life. She is a woman who went through "des époques si différentes que leur esprit a pris toute la souplesse de leur destinée / such different times that their mind has adopted the suppleness of their destiny" (78). While the narrator presents this information positively, it parallels his other comments about Mme de Carjaval's ability to adapt to different moral codes, an ability, as we have seen, which is a sign of corruption. After Noun's suicide, the narrator explains that Raymon feels remorse and thinks of blowing his brains out but "un sentiment louable l'arrêta. Que deviendrait-sa mère … sa mère âgée, débile / a worthy feeling stopped him. What would become of his mother, so old and weak?" (127). Again his mother is the excuse for his failure to act.

The role of Raymon's mother as the explanation and justification for his narcissistic behavior is linked not only to Noun's fate but also to Indiana's. After Noun's suicide, Indiana refuses to see Raymon, but her husband imposes Raymon's visit on her because he has been charmed by Raymon's mother (122). Raymon in turn uses his mother to come visit Indiana who is seduced by her charm "qu'un esprit supérieur joint à une âme noble et généreuse, sait répandre dans ses moindres relations / that a superior mind linked to a noble and generous soul can infuse in all her relationships" 140. Indiana's "fascination de coeur" with Madame de Ramière is linked to her not having known her own mother (141).

The complexity of Raymon's mother's role is further demonstrated in the episode in which Indiana compromises herself by coming to see him late at night and he attempts to make her leave by asking his mother to help. Mme de Ramière acts very generously toward Indiana but as the narrator's analysis makes clear, she has created Raymon's selfishness and self-indulgence: "Le caractère de ce fils impétueux et froid, raisonneur et passionné était une conséquense de son inépuisable amour et de sa tendresse généreuse pour lui … mais elle l'avait habitué à profiter de tous les sacrifices qu'elle consentait à lui faire … A force de générosité, elle n'avait réussi qu'à former un coeur égoïste / The character of this impetuous and cold, reasoning and passionate son was a consequence of her unending love and her generous affection … but she had accustomed him to profit from all the sacrifices she was willing to make for him … By dint of generosity, she had only succeeded in shaping a selfish heart" (223). This analysis presents Raymon's narcissism, not as a natural "male" trait, but as the product of his mother's indulgence, that is as the product of specific cultural practices that reproduce hierarchies. Loving a son means encouraging narcissistic behavior and victimizing women. Ironically, mothers, as Sand presents them in Indiana, are the social agents through which gender inequalities are passed on to the next generation.…


  1. See Sandy Petrey "George and Georgina: Realist Gender in Indiana. Pp. 133-47 in Textuality and Sexuality: Reading Theories and Practices. Eds. Judith Still and Michael Worton. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993.
  2. She states "the story of Ralph recapitulates the writer's progress from initial uncertainty and hesitation to ultimate assurance and eloquence" (56).
  3. Lukacher specifically argues that Raymon figures Sand herself "before the impasse of the double feminine identification" (77). Marilyn Lukacher, Maternal Fictions. Durham: Duke University Press, 1994.
  4. This seems to be the view of the French editors of Indiana. See for instance the introduction of Pierre Salomon, ed. Indiana. Paris: Garnier, 1962; and Béatrice Didier, ed. Indiana. Paris: Gallimard (Folio): 1984.
  5. See Nigel Harkness, "Writing under the Sign of Difference: The Conclusion of Indiana" Forum for Modern Language Studies 33.2 (1997): 115-128.
  6. See Kathryn Crecelius, Family Romances. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Like Harkness, Crecelius also believes that Sand posits a difference between men's and women's language (73).
  7. Vareille focuses on the character of Delmare to show that, for Sand, the victims of mariage are men as well as women since they are also frozen in a social role over which they have no control See Kristina Wingard Vareille, Socialité, sexualité et les impasses de l'histoire: l'évolution de la thématique sandienne d'Indiana (1832) à Mauprat (1837), 32-34.
  8. I have showed elsewhere that Sand has constructed Indiana as a very strong character both morally and physically. See Françoise Massardier-Kenney, "Indiana: Lieux et personnages féminins" Nineteenth-Century French Studies (1990): 65-71. Vareille has also showed that while Indiana is presented as a "faible femme" who faints, cries, is emotional, she is also very strong morally: she attends to wounded men, she stands up to her husband, etc. As she will do later in Jeanne, Sand redefines traditional notions of physical and moral strength. It should be noted as well that the very characteristics that mark her as a "femme faible" (crying, fainting, etc) are also typical of the male characters: all three male characters cry at one point or another. Raymon faints when the body of Noun is discovered and Ralph almost swoons when he thinks Indiana died from a horse accident.
  9. Although Indiana is clearly presented as the victim of patriarchal institutions and although the narrative is controlled by a male voice, it is her voice whether in direct discourse or through letters that is the most present. Even the prolix Raymon is not given more space in letters or actual speech than is Indiana.
  10. While a number of critics have noted the link that Sand establishes between water and women, I maintain that they miss a number of occurrences when water is associated with men as well. Noun does commit suicide in the river and, after wandering in Paris, Indiana, almost drowns in the Seine, but there are as many incidents linked to water that are associated by male characters: for instance, Ralph's early suicide thoughts, Raymon's near fall in the very river where Noun drowned, and of course, Ralph's later planned leap in the waterfalls of the Bernica. As I have showed in "Indiana: Lieux et personnages féminins," Ophelia is not a figure for women; it is the name of Indiana's dog and it is the dog that dies from drowning, not Indiana. When Indiana escapes her husband to sail back to France, the dog follows the boat and is killed by coarse sailors. It should not surprise us that Sand refrain from associating women with water, since it would be an essentialist gesture.
  11. Sand's contradictory portrait of Ralph as a positive Romantic figure who opposes conservative social and political practices but whose own gender ideology is ultimately patriarchal will find a development in Jacques (1834), where she will explore the very possibility of the contradictions expressed by the Ralph figure.
  12. Vareille Wingard notes the negativeness of sexuality for women: "for women, sexuality can only be a trap, a threat, an aggressive and destructive domination exerted by the male" (43), but she does not extend her remarks to romantic love in general which is also a domination exerted by the male in that it destroys the female's subjectivity.
  13. Her evidence is mostly based on the fact that the word "virginal" is no longer used in the utopic episode (footnote 61, p. 63) and that Indiana dresses as a bride in the suicide scene.
  14. Of course, Sand's decision to leave the couple childless is a further detail that marks the absence of sexuality from their relation.
  15. In any case, chastity is by no means reserved for women: since Ralph's wife died, he has remained single and sexless.
  16. For example Maryline Lukacher interprets Raymon's mother as a figure representing Sand's grandmother because her last words to Raymon are the same as those Sand's grandmother actually said to her on her death bed (77). Similarly Vareille Wingard, who is usually a very astute reader, fails to notice Sand's irony in depicting Madame de Ramière.
  17. The theme of male narcissism and the role of mothers in fostering such narcissism will be developed and amplified in later novels, most notably in Lucrezia Floriani (1846).


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SOURCE: Terzian, Debra L. "Feminism and Family Dysfunction in Sand's Valentine." Nineteenth-Century French Studies 25, nos. 3-4 (spring-summer 1997): 266-79.

In the following essay, Terzian analyzes Sand's particular brand of feminism by exploring the construction of her female characters in Valentine.

C'étaient de beaux et chastes livres, presque tous écrits par des femmes sur des histoires de femmes: Valérie, Eugène de Rothelin, Mademoiselle de Clermont, Delphine. Ces récits touchants et passionnées, ces aperçus d'un monde idéal pour moi élèverent mon âme, mais ils la dévorèrent. Je devins romanesque, caractère le plus infortuné qu'une femme puisse avoir.

George Sand, Leone Leoni

In the passage cited above, a female character from one of Sand's fictional works cites the works of fiction that have most influenced her and that have marked decisive moments in what can be termed her sentimental education. The novels she lists form a veritable corpus of women's literature. Evoking the notion of a continuum of women writers, Sand's protagonist makes plain the problematic and troublesome feature that these works share—their power to both "elevate" and "devour" the reader. For while Sand's Juliette is moved by the beauty and purity of these texts, she is not unaware of the often disheartening, disquieting ways in which women, as gendered subjects, are represented in these works.

Sand's second novel, Valentine (1832), participates in this novelistic tradition of fictionalizing the feminine. Valentine takes its place alongside such literary works as Germaine de Staël's Delphine, published 30 years earlier, and included above by Juliette in her roster of women's fiction. In Valentine, Sand yields to the dominant nineteenth-century textual codes and cultural conventions that govern the social relation of the sexes, and she conforms to the nineteenth century's agenda of subservient femininity in her narration of female Bildung. Yet, in the story she tells, and this is true as well for her Staëlian pre-text, Sand couples this conformity to narrative codes with a feminist critique of the ways in which these codes define and circumscribe the feminine. Admittedly, the feminism inherent in Sand's Valentine has none of the feminist rhetoric and pathos that we read for example, in Staël's Delphine. But, I should like to begin this reading of a Sandian tale of growing up female by taking up the issue of Sand's feminism from the outset.

As Naomi Schor has pointed out, the question of Sand's feminism is an inevitable one for many Sandian critics (71). For some readers of Sand's earliest fictions, Indiana, as well as Valentine, Sand's narratives do not contest, but capitulate to the nineteenth century's construction of the feminine stereotype. This is the view of Leslie Rabine, who writes that the heroine in Indiana "fulfills the desire to epitomize the social ideal of nineteenth-century womanhood" (9). And should any reader need clarification of this point, Rabine defines her terms: "not only is Indiana an imitation of the male nineteenth-century wish-fulfillment work, but also the wish or dream the heroine fulfills is to be the perfect dream-object of the male dreamer" (5). Kathryn Crecelius takes a similar position in her reading of Valentine. Comparing the two novels, she concludes that "as a feminist work, Valentine is surprisingly thin compared to Indiana" (92). For both Rabine and Crecelius then, Sand's early feminocentric fictions represent disappointing works of nineteenth-century feminism.

I foreground their critical perspectives here, for as well argued as they are, I would like to propose a reading of Valentine that takes another look at Sand's feminism, and finds no abandonment of feminist principles, no forsaking of a feminist sensibility. In her recent book, George Sand and Idealism, Naomi Schor undertakes the rather thorny issue of Sand's feminism, and moves the Sandian critic beyond that most formulaic of questions, namely, is Sand a good feminist or a bad one. And, although the nineties have brought about the displacement of feminist criticism from the more privileged status it held in the seventies and eighties—the interrogation of its very conceptual underpinnings—Sand's writings continue to invite and invoke the reader to consider the question of her feminism.1 Indeed, Schor locates Sand's feminism in her contradictions—the very contradictions that lead Rabine to indict Sand's Indiana as a work that conceals its "conformity to the feminine stereotypes then in force" within its "rhetoric of rebellion" (2). What is important then is that Sand's works put forth these contradictions, not that she fails to resolve them. How Sand does or does not resolve the contradictions in her writings on women's experience is not the issue, for as Schor explains, "Feminism is the debate itself" (76). What follows is an effort to identify the terms of this debate, and to trace how it plays itself out in Valentine.

Valentine's story begins in the absence of the father. Unlike Balzac's Eugénie Grandet, for example, published just one year after Valentine, Sand's novel of female development is not father-driven; female Bildung is not subject to the constraining law of the father. But, we could say that Sand's fiction is sister-driven. Indeed, the first significant event in the heroine's story comes in the early part of the novel with the return of Valentine's sister, Louise, after fifteen years spent in exile. Louise was banished from the château de Raimbault by Valentine's mother (Louise's stepmother) for having fallen victim to the seduction of a Monsieur de Neuville, who, it turns out, was Madame de Raimbault's lover as well. The early part of the novel, dealing with Louise's return and reunion with Valentine is an episode of Valentine's narrative that I will refer to as the sisters' story. It is within the pages of the sisters' story that Sand begins the fiction that is Valentine. The heroine's developmental trajectory is initially presented and articulated within the narrative framework of the sister's story; the heroine's text, to borrow a term from Nancy Miller, is subsumed within, and grows out of this story.2 This merging of story marks the novel's opening pages. One example is the following passage in which Valentine's thoughts turn to her sister, whose misfortune and imposed exile have kept them apart:

Cette dernière pensée amena une larme au bord de sa paupière. C'était là le seul événement de la vie de Valentine; mais il l'avait remplie; il avait influé sur son caractère, il lui avait donné à la fois de la timidité et de la hardiesse; de la timidité pour elle-même, de la hardiesse quand il s'agissait de sa soeur. Elle n'avait, il est vrai, jamais pu lui prouver le dévouement courageux dont elle se sentait animée; jamais le nom de sa sœur n'avait été prononcé par sa mère devant elle; jamais on ne lui avait fourni une seule occasion de la servir et de la défendre. Son désir en était d'autant plus vif, et cette sorte de tendresse passionnée, qu'elle nourrissait pour une personne dont l'image se présentait à elle à travers les vagues souvenirs de l'enfance, était réellement la seule affection romanesque qui eût trouvé place dans son âme.


Louise's first appearance in the novel is also predicated on her tie to Valentine: "je n'aurai pas de repos que je n'aie vu ses traits, entendu le son de sa voix" (11).

The kind of narrative fusion that Sand enacts as she recounts the story of her heroine in relation to that of the sisters puts me in mind of Nancy Chodorow's psychoanalytic account of female development, which is grounded in a sense of "self-in-relationship" to another woman—the mother.3 Sand's narrative makes plain the strong mother-daughter bond that underlies the relationship of the sisters, and it gives fresh articulation to Chodorow's contention that there exists "a tendency in women toward boundary confusion" (110). The parallel between Sand's fiction and Chodorow's theory seems to me to be inevitable for the reader who confronts the novel's opening pages, constructed as they are in such a way as to mirror the permeable ego boundaries that define the relationship between Valentine and her sister.4

The sisters' story, at once tragic and idyllic, takes its place in the context of a rather curious fictional family romance. The constellation of family members around Valentine—all of whom are female—makes for an unusual cast of characters to play the role of formative influences in a tale of growing up female. Indeed, the story of Valentine's family reads like a nineteenth-century fictional account of a dysfunctional family. There is Louise, a young single woman raising a child out of wedlock, and banished from her family home by her malicious stepmother. Yet, prior to her exile, Louise did nonetheless play a significant role in raising her younger sister. This stepmother, Madame de Raimbault, biological mother to Valentine, depicted throughout as an aging, repressive, and bitter woman, looks upon her daughters as rivals for male attention and approval. Their youth and beauty are a painful reminder of her own aging, fading attractiveness. Bitter, angry, and resentful, Madame de Raimbault is happiest when she can appear in society alone and without Valentine. As for the third member of the family, Valentine's grandmother, she is presented to the reader as a young and scatterbrained woman: "étourdie et jeune" (41).

Valentine's relationships to these women who have raised her are marked by some curious slippages and displacements, and since these family ties are central to the developmental tale that Sand writes for her heroine, I should like to consider them in some detail. The subject of relationships between women in Sandian fiction represents, of course, a meaningful point of inquiry for the feminist reader, and Valentine offers an interesting case in point. With this novel, Sand gives her fictional account of the mother-daughter relationship under patriarchy. She casts this story in bleak, impoverished terms; she fictionalizes no instances of female bonding between them, and the text effectively severs any notion of female genealogy or transmission from mother to daughter. Sand is far from reinscribing the mother-daughter story as told by Madame de Lafayette in La Princesse de Clèves, or even, to cite a more contemporary example, that told by Balzac in Eugénie Grandet. Instead, the novel enacts a schism in the figure of the mother. This schism is at once prefigured and encapsulated in the episode of Louise's dream in the novel's opening pages. Prior to being reunited with her sister, Louise has a dream in which Valentine falls into the river, and Valentine's mother impedes Louise's efforts to save the drowning child. Her dream plays out the conflict of the good versus the bad mother, and the novel makes it clear that Mme de Raimbault is the bad mother, lacking in maternal feeling, completely alienated from her own child. The text leaves no doubt that Louise is the good mother, linking, in a kind of affective continuum, the love and maternal feelings that she had for the young Valentine with the maternal love she has for her son: "Cet amour d'autrefois pour sa sœur s'était réveillé plus intense et plus maternal avec celui qu'elle avait eu pour son fils" (59). Louise tells of her experience of motherhood in the following way:

Mon fils existe, il ne m'a jamais quittée; c'est moi qui l'ai élevé. Je n'ai point essayé de dissimuler ma faute en l'éloignant de moi ou en lui refusant mon nom. Partout il m'a suivie, partout sa présence a révélé mon malheur et mon repentir. Et le croirastu, Valentine? j'ai fini par mettre ma gloire à me proclamer sa mère.…


A mother-daughter bond grounds the relationship between the sisters and affectively displaces Valentine's biological mother from the mother-daughter dyad. When the sisters are reunited, they confirm the tie that binds them, and that consequently invalidates the figure of Madame de Raimbault as mother:

—Pourquoi ce vous? dit Louise; ne sommes-nous pas sœurs?

—Oh! c'est que vous êtes ma mère aussi! répondit Valentine. Allez, je n'ai rien oublié! Vous êtes encore présente à ma mémoire comme si c'était hier …

—… C'est moi qui t'ai élevée, Valentine, tu t'en souviens!…car ta mère ne s'occupait guère de toi; moi seule, je veillais sur tous tes instants.…


As for Madame de Raimbault, the novel reinforces her distance from her daughter in the very way that it names her. Referred to alternately in the text by her maiden name, Mademoiselle de Chignon, or her title by marriage, la Comtesse de Raimbault, she is firmly rooted in social and patriarchal convention. She is the one who holds the title to the Raimbault property. It was her wealth and fortune that enabled the reacquisition of the Château de Raimbault, which had been sold as national property during the Revolution. In fact, this Sandian mother essentially coopts the role of the father: she assures the transmission of property to the daughter and thus provides her daughter's dowry for her marriage to Monsieur de Lansac. Assimilating Madame de Raimbault into the role of the father, the novel dispossesses this patriarchal mother even further of her textual identification with maternity. On the eve of her wedding day, Madame de Raimbault summons her daughter for a most peculiar mother-daughter chat:

Alors madame de Raimbault entama une grave dissertation d'affaires avec sa fille; elle lui fit remarquer qu'elle lui laissait le château et la terre de Raimbault, dont le nom seul constituait presque tout l'héritage de son père, et dont la valeur réelle, détachée de sa propre fortune, constituait une assez belle dot.… Elle entra dans des détails d'argent qui firent de cette exhortation maternelle une véritable consultation notariée, et termina sa harangue en lui disant qu'elle espérait, au moment où la loi allait les rendre étrangères l'une à l'autre, trouver Valentine disposée à lui accorder des égards et des soins.


More father-surrogate than nurturing mother, it is Madame de Raimbault who bequeaths the patrimonial legacy to the daughter—"elle lui laissait le château et la terre de Raimbault, dont le nom seul constituait presque tout l'héritage de son père." And, lest the reader need additional evidence of Madame de Raimbault's singular lack of mothering skills—her distaste for the role of motherhood, we need only look to one of the novel's last references to her. After Valentine's marriage to Monsieur de Lansac, Madame de Raimbault takes her leave, relieved to leave her maternal role behind her once and for all: "En se sentant débarrassée des devoirs de la maternité, il lui sembla qu'elle rajeunissait de vingt ans …" (221).

After Valentine's marriage, Madame de Raimbault essentially writes off her daughter. We scarcely hear of her again, and when we do, it is disparagingly, for in the final half of the novel, when the dissolute husband carefully selected for her by her mother has sold Valentine's home and property out from under her, Madame de Raimbault is quick to reject her daughter's pleas for help. And so it is that this mother, who has so summarily written off her daughter, finds herself, in turn, written out of the fiction itself. According to Marianne Hirsch, this is a common feature of nineteenth-century fiction authored by women. Studying the way in which women writers have gone about writing the story of the mother, Hirsch finds that the plots of nineteenth-century women writers are based on maternal repression—the mother's absence, silence, and negativity (The Mother/Daughter Plot 47). Hirsch's book points to what she sees as "the thoroughness with which female realist writers eliminate mothers from their fiction" (50). The novel of female development, anchored as it is in plots of romantic love, is predicated on the absence of the mother. Indeed, the sacrifice of the mother becomes the organizing principle of such fiction.5

Valentine takes her place alongside other nineteenth-century heroines by virtue of her motherlessness.6 For, long before Sand writes the mother out of her story, she depicts her heroine as an orphan. This is, of course, one significant feature of Sand's fiction of family dysfunction. As we saw earlier, Valentine credits Louise with having raised her, and she discounts and dismisses her mother's role. Yet, since her female role models are all essentially anti-role models, Valentine endeavors to write a new story for her life. She most clearly rejects the script of female conduct that the women in her life have followed. Sand describes her motherless, orphaned heroine in the following way:

La jeune Valentine, élevée tour à tour par sa sœur bannie, par sa mère orgueilleuse, par les religieuses de son couvent, par sa grand'mère étourdie et jeune, n'avait été définitivement élevée par personne. Elle s'était faite elle-même ce qu'elle était, et, faute de trouver des sympathies bien réelles dans sa famille, elle avait pris le goût de l'étude et de la rêverie.


Elle se promettait d'échapper à ces inclinations ardentes qui faisaient sous ses yeux le malheur des autres: à l'amour du luxe, auquel sa grand'mère sacrifiait toute dignité; à l'ambition, dont les espérances déçues torturaient sa mère; à l'amour, qui avait si cruellement égaré sa sœur.


This brief excerpt from the narrative of Valentine's family ties speaks volumes about Sand's fiction of female Bildung. Curiously enough, in spite of the fact that Valentine has been mothered by three different women of three different generations, the text ultimately casts her as an orphan and thereby invalidates any trace of female transmission between the women: "La jeune Valentine … n'avait été définitivement élevée par personne. Elle s'était faite elle-mëme ce qu'elle était.…" Valentine will not participate in that which has been the experience and destiny of the women around her. The text disinherits her from any female legacy, and it disidentifies her from her maternal models. She most clearly does not want to be her mother's daughter. Yet, Sand's representation of this failed relationship is not evidence of an anti-feminist stance on the part of the novelist. For what the novel underlines in this story of mother and daughter is the daughter's singularity with respect to the mother. Sand's heroine turns away from the mother. If there is ultimately no female legacy or transmission passed on from mother to daughter, it is due to Valentine who rejects the notion of womanhood and the patriarchal conception of femininity that her mother embodies. To read in Sand's story her inability to fictionalize a nurturing relationship between women without rivalry or jealous rancor seems to me to be a failed reading. For, what it fails to read in this story is the novelist's refusal to make of her heroine a daughter in the economy of patriarchy.

The work of Luce Irigaray can be helpful to a reading of this feature of Sand's fiction, since Irigaray confronts the reality and the consequences of women's existence in Western, male-ordered culture, and, by extension, in its literary productions. She speaks about the rupture in female genealogy as a casualty in the foundation and logic of Western culture. The perpetuation of Western society and culture resides, according to Irigaray, in the silence of, and separation between women: "Pourquoi, en quoi, la société, la socialité trouvent-elles intérêt à leur silence? Pour perpétuer toutes les normes de la société et de la culture existantes qui reposent aussi sur la séparation entre les femmes" (Ethique 103). It is the break in female genealogy, reflected in the relationships between the women in Sand's novel, which, if we play out Irigaray's reasoning, inexorably signals and underlies women's relation to women in a patriarchal economy, subject to the laws of male desire. Irigaray writes: "La verticalité est en quelque sorte toujours enlevée au devenir femme. Le lien entre mère et fille, fille et mère, doit être rompu pour que la fille devienne femme. La généalogie féminine doit être supprimée, au bénéfice de la relation fils-Père, de l'idéalisation du père et du mari comme patriarches" (106).7 Reading Irigaray, it is impossible not to think here of the way in which Sand casts Madame Raimbault's troubled relationship to her daughters. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, is another important critical intertext for a reading of Sand. The mother-daughter narrative in Valentine calls to mind Gilbert and Gubar's reading of Grimm's "Snow White." This story of (step)mother and daughter also takes place in the absence of the father. Yet, as Gilbert and Gubar read it, the father/king is present to the extent that the mother has internalized and assimilated his "patriarchal voice of judgment that rules the Queen's—and every other woman's—self-evaluation" (38). Reading the mother-daughter narratives of Grimm and Sand alongside one another reveals the parallel that exists between them: "It is true, of course, that in the patriarchal kingdom of the text these women inhabit, the Queen's life can be literally imperiled by her daughter's beauty, and true … that, given the female vulnerability such perils imply, female bonding is extraordinarily difficult in patriarchy: women almost inevitably turn against women because the voice of the looking glass sets them against each other" (38). Thus, patriarchal plots and representations of the feminine are mirrored in fiction from fairy tale to novel. Textual constructions of the feminine across fictional genres are grounded in the ideology of patriarchy, and bound up in this ideology are both the causes of, and explanations for women's difficult and problematic relationship to women in fiction.

But, shouldn't things work out differently in female-authored fiction? Doesn't gender make a difference? Of course it does, and Valentine provides one example. In Valentine, we can read, on the one hand, the novelist's effort to be faithful to dominant literary traditions, and on the other, her attempt to envision alternate ways in which to write the heroine's text. The course of development for nineteenth-century heroines is marked throughout by their inscription as gendered subjects in culture and fiction. The nineteenth-century feminocentric novel moves its heroine towards the heterosexual romance plot; the most characteristic organization of nineteenth-century narrative.8 And, in this, Valentine is no exception. The novel is marked by a writing posture that both inscribes and attempts to circumscribe dominant literary tradition and its ideological underpinnings. Sand's struggle to resist this tradition can be read in the very structure and organization of her narrative. We have already seen that the novel begins with the story of the sisters. And in these early pages, the novel's presentation of the sisters, bound up in their preoedipal attachment to one another, is at once a powerful and a sensuous one. With the exception perhaps of Sand's Lélia, Icanthinkofnoother nineteenth-century text that can possibly come close to matching or rivaling the depiction of the sensuality that pervades Valentine and Louise's reunion within the pages of the sisters' story:

Louise, en se redressant sur son chevet, perdit le mouchoir de soie qui retenait ses longs cheveux bruns. Dans ce désordre, pâle, effrayée, éclairée par un rayon de la lune qui perçait furtivement entre les fentes du rideau, elle se pencha vers la voix qui l'appelait. Deux bras l'enlacent; une bouche fraîche et jeune couvre ses joues de saintes caresses; Louise, interdite, se sent inondée de larmes et de baisers; Valentine, près de défaillir, se laisse tomber, épuisée d'émotion, sur le lit de sa sœur. Quand Louise comprit que ce n'était plus un rêve, que Valentine était dans ses bras, qu'elle y était venue, que son cœur était rempli de tendresse et de joie comme le sien, elle ne put exprimer ce qu'elle sentait que par des étreintes et des sanglots.


Sand clearly stages and valorizes the heroine's "homosexual" ties to her sister and sets forth the importance of the preoedipal in her presentation of the heroine. Yet, the sisters' story then gives way to the heterosexual romance plot, and thus the story of preoedipal love between the sisters yields to the narrative of the heroine's passage through oedipalization. In this way, Sand respects the prevailing narrative pattern of dominant literary tradition, for her novel enacts a passage from a valorization of homosexual ties to the characteristic preoccupation with heterosexual ones.

By grounding the heroine in a preoedipally organized narrative, and thus depicting the instance of affective merging between the heroine and another woman, Sand opens up the possibility of telling a different developmental story—one that is perhaps more complete—at the least, more faithful to the specificity of female development. The preoedipal is a story that goes untold in the tradition of nineteenth-century narrative; it is a story that is suppressed by the romance plot. The preoedipal is the untold story in Freudian theory as well. Freud acknowledged only belatedly and superficially the importance of the preoedipal for women. In his essay, "Femininity," Freud begins to stress its lingering importance for the specificity of female development: "We knew, of course, that there had been a preliminary stage of attachment to the mother, but we did not know that it could be so rich in content and so long-lasting, and could leave behind so many opportunities for fixations and dispositions.…In short, we get an impression that we cannot understand women unless we appreciate this phase of their pre-Oedipal attachment to the mother" (118). Sand, however, does not neglect to tell this story. On the contrary, she goes to great lengths to do so. Yet, if indeed Sand's attempt to inscribe her heroine in a different story—a preoedipally organized one—ultimately gives way to that more traditional of stories—romantic love, she does, in fact, return to it in an effort to reinscribe it throughout the novel. In the part of the novel concerned with the developing romance between Valentine and Bénédict, it is true that the sisters' story is no longer primary.9 Yet, there is an effort on the part of the novelist to bind Louise to this part of Valentine's story. The heterosexual love story in this novel grows out of the sisters' story: Valentine's initial attachment to Bénédict grows out of her love for Louise. It is Bénédict who is responsible for reuniting the sisters, and the love that Valentine comes to feel for Bénédict is initially, as far as the heroine is concerned, a displacement and an extension of her strong feelings for her sister: "elle se levait et courait à la fenêtre; appelant dans son coeur Louise et Bénédict; car Bénédict, ce n'était pour elle, du moins elle le croyait ainsi, qu'une partie de sa soeur détachée vers elle" (78). As the novel moves from recounting the sisters' story to plotting the romance between Valentine and Bénédict, Bénédict plays as important a role in the sisters' story as Louise does in the story of the lovers. Bénédict's role in the sisters' story is clear: he reunites them and serves as intermediary between them, delivering their messages and letters to one another. And, on one occasion, he literally stands in for Louise, when he sings a song to Valentine that she clearly associates with her sister:

—Cet air, dit Valentine dans un instant où elle fut seule avec Bénédict, est celui que ma sœur me chantait de prédilection lorsque j'étais enfant.… Je ne l'ai jamais oublié, et tout à l'heure j'ai failli pleurer quand vous l'avez commencé.

—Je l'ai chanté à dessein, répondit Bénédict; c'était vous parler au nom de Louise.


In this way, the novel does not simply trade off the preoedipally invested story in favor of the romance. Rather, this subsequent story builds out of and feeds off of the earlier story. The novel binds Louise to the romance plot, making clear that the heroine's love for Bénédict stems from love for her sister. Sand plots Valentine's story in such a way as to continually situate her within a relational triangle with her sister and her lover. In fact, at one point in the romance plot when Valentine clearly understands how deeply she loves Bénédict and how perilous the stakes of romantic love can be, the heroine attempts to draw Louise into the lovers' story, as if Louise's presence could, in some way, legitimize the passion between the lovers: "De son côté, celle-ci s'abandonnait à des dangers dont elle n'était pas trop fâchée de voir sa sœur complice. Elle se laissait emporter par sa destinée, sans vouloir regarder en avant, et puisait dans l'imprévoyance de Louise des excuses pour sa propre faiblesse" (226). Thus, narrative structure in Valentine, passing as it does from the preoedipal to the oedipal, does not simply supplant one story for the other in a kind of hegemonic ordering of story. Instead, it merges the two stories. Fusing the sisters' story and the story of the lovers, the novel presents its heroine in a kind of bisexual relational triangle.10

In terms of the narrative organization of the novel, the story of the lovers is in turn displaced by the story of the pavilion. There is much to be said of the episode of the pavilion, and this very topic has received important critical attention.11 The novel's story of the pavilion represents the heroine's attempt to reclaim her own story. It is in the absence of her mother and husband that Valentine's quest for self finds definition and fulfilment in the sphere of activity and relationships that she creates within the walls of the pavilion. The importance of the mother's absence on Valentine's freedom and well-being cannot be stressed enough: "Jamais Valentine ne s'était sentie si heureuse; loin des regards de sa mère, loin de la roideur glaciale qui pesait sur tous ses pas, il lui semblait respirer un air plus libre, et, pour la première fois depuis qu'elle était née, vivre de toute sa vie" (105). The pavilion story makes clear that the mother needs to be removed from the daughter's story in order for the daughter to be able to shape and create her own story. It is here that she summons a family of her own choosing and writes a story for herself that takes place outside of, and in opposition to, society's conventions and prejudices: "Ainsi une réunion de circonstances favorables concourait à protéger le bonheur que Louise, Valentine et Bénédict volaient pour ainsi dire à la loi des convenances et des préjugés" (247). Interestingly enough, where the novel sets up a conflict for the mother between motherhood and selfhood—her role as mother clearly effacing any possibility of self-fulfilment for the countess—it celebrates the heroine's quest for self and achievement of self-fulfilment through her creation of family. Valentine's fictional quest is bound up in this desire for family. The story of the pavilion is all about the harmonious coexistence of Louise and her son, Valentin, Bénédict and his cousin and former fiancée, Athénaïs, and Valentine, a group that the novel indeed refers to as a family (257). The novel goes to great lengths to describe the blissful, idyllic refuge from the reality of the social order that the heroine has succeeded in establishing:

Le pavilion était donc pour tous, à la fin du jour, un lieu de repos et de délices. …C'était l'Elysée, le monde poétique, la vie dorée de Valentine; au château, tous les ennuis, toutes les servitudes, toutes les tristesses; …au pavilion, tous les bonheurs, tous les amis, tous les doux rêves, l'oubli des terreurs, et les joies pures d'un amour chaste. C'était comme une île enchantée au milieu de la vie réelle, comme une oasis dans le désert.


The pavilion is also a space in which social difference is collapsed and where an aristocratic heroine can coexist happily with those from a lower social class (Bénédict and Athénaïs) and those that society has expelled (Louise and Valentin). The pavilion represents Valentine's attempt to create a space for herself and her "family" outside of social difference, as well as outside of desire. The notion of the pavilion as a place for the sublimation of the lovers' desire ultimately proves, as Nancy Miller suggests, to be outside the possibilities of fiction ("Writing (From) the Feminine" 138).

Yet, there is another way in which to read the story of the pavilion. Although the pavilion episode continues to tell the story of the lovers, it shifts and dislocates this story by factoring in the story of Louise, Athénaïs, and Valentin. For the pavilion is not only figured as a site for the sublimation of the lovers' desire, it also opens up a space in which female genealogy, severed throughout the novel, is restored and reaffirmed. Louise is drawn back into the narrative. Her role expands beyond that of being her sister's jealous rival for Bénédict's love12; and the legitimate ties to family that had been denied to her are restored in the pavilion story. One of the main activities of this part of the novel becomes the education of Valentin, undertaken and transmitted by both Valentine and Bénédict. Thus, the pavilion story shifts the focus away from the romance plot and figures in other stories. It seems to me that this shift is another example of Sand's effort to rework and revise traditional narrative convention. She marks her dissent from dominant tradition by dislocating the romance plot from the center of the fiction and introducing a story organized around the notion of a group of collective protagonists, a feature of Sandian fiction.

I would like to conclude by returning to Crecelius's indictment of Valentine: "as a feminist work, Valentine is surprisingly thin compared with Indiana." In the conclusion to her chapter on Valentine, she further states that Valentine's "literary innovations are also more circumscribed than previously" (92). The reading of the novel that I present here takes issue with these remarks. Granted, the novel does stage women's problematic relation to women in a society in which they compete for male desire and romance. And granted, the novel, although it celebrates the strong, affective ties that can exist between women in its recounting of the sisters' story, it does, as well, debase these ties, in the story of Louise's jealousy. Ties between mother and daughter are severed, and those between sister and sister are compromised in Sand's fiction. Her heroine is the site of this break in female genealogy, and Sand's narrative is an attempt to negotiate a place and a role for her heroine within the terms of such a fiction.

Is Valentine a disappointing feminist work? Let's consider the novel's conclusion. Although it is true that the novel's feminism is subsumed within the social consciousness and conception of social equality that pervades the novel's conclusion, this conclusion does point toward the grounding of a more just and egalitarian society, and heralds the birth of a new generation (reflected in the marriage of Valentin and Athénaïs), founded on the notion of social equality. The novel's ending is not an abandonment of feminist principles. Rather, the novel's conclusion gestures towards the possibility of a society, very much like the one created by Valentine in the brief episode of the pavilion, where feminism is just another word for a more balanced, egalitarian, social relation between the sexes, between men and women as gendered subjects.


  1. In Schor's reading, the question to be asked is "if a definition of feminism exists that can account for practices and convictions that are heterogeneous and sometimes irreconcilable" (75). According to Schor, a definition of feminism appropriate to a discussion of Sand would be one that "makes of it a sum of contradictions, the nodal point where dissatisfactions with contemporary society and the place it assigns women, claims for equality, claims for singular or plural differences, assertions of an essential and transhistorical female nature, and denunciations of a subaltern condition stemming from specifically historical and contingent factors clash and intertwine" (75-76).
  2. See Nancy K. Miller, The Heroine's Text: Readings in the French and English Novel, 1722-1782.
  3. See Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender.
  4. Although Chodorow's theories have come under attack from a number of scholars in different disciplines, many feminist critics have acknowledged the usefulness of Chodorow's work for an understanding of female experience in literature. See, for example, Marianne Hirsch, "Mothers and Daughters: A Review Essay" 218.
  5. Hirsch traces the mother's evacuation from the daughter's story to her reading of Freud's "Family Romances" with its androcentric bias. Playing out the implications of the Freudian family romance pattern for a female child, Hirsch concludes that the female family romance depends on elimination of the mother from the daughter's fiction and on attachment to the husband/father. Hirsch also draws on Luce Irigaray and her definition of Western culture as inherently matricidal. See Marianne Hirsch, The Mother/Daughter Plot 43-58. See also Luce Irigaray who writes: "Dès lors, ce qui apparaît dans les faits les plus quotidiens comme dans l'ensemble de notre société et de notre culture, c'est que celles-ci fonctionnent originairement sur un matricide. Quand Freud décrit et théorise, notamment dans Totem et Tabou, le meurtre du père comme fondateur de la horde primitive, il oublie un meurtre plus archaïque, celui de la femme-mère nécessité par l'établissement d'un certain ordre dans la cité" (Le Corps-à-Corps avec la Mère 15-16).
  6. Adrienne Rich has also written on the motherless heroine. In a compelling essay on Jane Eyre, Rich draws on Phyllis Chesler's assertion that "women are motherless children in patriarchal society" (qtd. in Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence 91).
  7. On the subject of the mother-daughter relationship, Irigaray has this to say: "Pour se faire désirer, aimer de l'homme, il faut évincer la mère, se substituer à elle, l'anéantir pour devenir même. Ce qui détruit la possibilité d'un amour entre mère et fille. Elles sont à la fois complices et rivales pour advenir à l'unique position possible dans le désir de l'homme" (Ethique 101).
  8. See Rachel Blau DuPlessis who points out that the telic romance plot of these fictions is "a trope for the sex-gender system." Heterosexuality, as DuPlessis writes, is "not a natural law," "but a cultural and narrative ideology" (5).
  9. Valentine's romance with Bénédict both predates and survives her marriage to Monsieur de Lansac.
  10. See Nancy Chodorow, who writes that the feminine oedipal configuration is triangular—the course of female development is not seen as an abandonment of the preoedipal. The developmental narrative that Sand writes for Valentine mirrors, in many ways, the narrative of female development put forth by Chodorow and other object relations theorists. See Chodorow 140.
  11. I am thinking here of Nancy Miller's "Writing (From) the Feminine: George Sand and the Novel of Female Pastoral."
  12. Madame de Raimbault, Louise, and Athénaïs, suffer from jealousy over male desire, but this emotion is never attributed to Valentine.

Works Cited

Chodorow, Nancy. The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender. Berkeley: U of California P, 1978.

Crecelius, Kathryn J. Family Romances: George Sand's Early Novels. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987.

DuPlessis, Rachel Blau. Writing Beyond the Ending: Narrative Strategies of Twentieth-Century Women Writers. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1985.

Freud, Sigmund. "Femininity." in The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 22. London: Hogarth Press, 1964.

Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979.

Hirsch, Marianne. The Mother/Daughter Plot: Narrative, Psychoanalysis, Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989.

——. "Mothers and Daughters: A Review Essay." Signs 7.1 (1981): 200-222.

Irigaray, Luce. Le Corps-à-Corps Avec la Mère. Montréal: Editions de la Pleine Lune, 1981.

——. Ethique de la Différence Sexuelle. Paris: Minuit, 1984.

Miller, Nancy K. The Heroine's Text: Readings in the French and English Novel, 1722-1782. New York: Columbia UP, 1980.

——. "Writing (From) the Feminine: George Sand and the Novel of Female Pastoral." The Representation of Women in Fiction: Selected Papers from the English Institute, 1981. Ed. Carolyn J. Heilbrun and Margaret Higonnet. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1983. 124-151.

Rabine, Leslie. "George Sand and the Myth of Femininity." Women and Literature 4.2 (1976): 2-9.

Rich, Adrienne. On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose, 1966-1978. New York: Norton, 1979.

Sand, George. Valentine. Paris: Michel Lévy Frères, 1869.

Schor, Naomi. George Sand and Idealism. New York: Columbia UP, 1993.

Further Reading

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Cate, Curtis. George Sand: A Biography, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1975, 812 p.

Provides an in-depth look at Sand's life and work.

Winegarten, Renée. The Double Life of George Sand, Woman and Writer. New York: Basic Books, 1978, 339 p.

Critical biography of Sand, examining in particular her struggle to understand herself as a woman and a human being.


Barry, Joseph. Infamous Woman: The Life of George Sand. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1977, 436 p.

Addresses Sand's achievement in terms of her works and the events of her life, asserting that she was "quintessentially the modern woman."

Brée, Germaine. "George Sand: The Fictions of Autobiography." Nineteenth-Century French Studies 4, no. 4 (summer 1976): 438-49.

Argues that Sand's autobiography and fiction constitute attempts to define herself by integrating the opposing tendencies represented by the two mother figures in her life.

Crecelius, Kathryn J. "Writing a Self: From Aurore Dudevant to George Sand." Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 14, no. 1 (spring 1985): 47-59.

Traces Sand's literary development through her early writings, most of which were not published in her lifetime.

——. Family Romances: George Sand's Early Novels. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987, 183 p.

Focusing on Sand's use of the father figure, explores a woman's depiction of the Oedipal triangle from the daughter's perspective.

——. "Female Fantastic: The Case of George Sand." L'Esprit Createur 28, no. 3 (fall 1988): 49-62.

Considers Sand's fiction in the context of nineteenth-century fantastic literature.

——. "'Fille majeure, etablie, maitresse de ses actions': George Sand's Unusual Heroines." In Women in French Literature, edited by Michael Guggenheim, pp. 137-433. Saratoga, Calif.: Anma Libri, 1988.

Investigates the range of Sand's female protagonists.

Danahy, Michael. "La Petite Fadette: The Dilemma of Being a Heroine." In The Feminization of the Novel, pp. 159-91. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1991.

Analyzes Fadette as a heroine without role models or social support.

Datlof, Natalie, Jean Fuchs, and David A. Powell, eds. The World of George Sand, New York: Greenwood Press, 1991, 352 p.

Collection of essays on Sand, with articles exploring the author's political affinities, sexual politics, and autobiographical techniques.

Deutelbaum, Wendy and Cynthia Huff. "Class, Gender, and Family System: The Case of George Sand." In The (M)other Tongue: Essays in Psychoanalytic Interpretation, edited by Shirley Nelson Garner, Claire Kahane, and Madelon Sprengnether, pp. 260-79. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985.

Argues that class and sexual politics together shaped Sand as an anti-feminist socialist who could envision utopia emerging only through male endeavor.

Dickenson, Donna. George Sand: A Brave Man—The Most Womanly Woman. Oxford, England: Berg, 1988, 190 p.

Emphasizes Sand's position as a hardworking professional writer in the nineteenth century.

Ender, Evelyne. Sexing the Mind: Nineteenth-Century Fictions of Hysteria. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995, 300 p.

Studies Sand, Henry James, and George Eliot in the context of the construction of gender difference during the nineteenth century, when gender divisions were being clearly demarcated in literary and scientific discourse through the codification of the "hysterical" woman.

Glasgow, Janis, ed. George Sand: Collected Essays, Troy, N.Y.: Whitson, 1985, 329 p.

Collection of essays exploring Sand's creative process, her literary influences, her reputation, and her ideas on the woman question and other issues.

Grant, Richard B. "George Sand's La Mare au Diable: A Study in Male Passivity." Nineteenth-Century French Studies 13, no. 4 (summer 1985): 211-23.

Analysis of La Mare au Diable which explores a man's maturity and his masculinity, analyzing its importance for the position of women.

——. "George Sand's Lélia and the Tragedy of Dualism." Nineteenth-Century French Studies 19, no. 4 (summer 1991): 499-516.

Studies the characters in Lélia psychologically in order to explore the theme of dualism at the heart of the novel.

Gray, Margaret E. "Silencing the (M)other Tongue in Sand's François Le Champi." Romanic Review 83, no. 3 (May 1992): 339-56.

Analysis of the theatrical or dialogicized "female" narration of François Le champi.

Jurgrau, Thelma. "Critical Introduction: Gender Positioning in Story of My Life. "In Story of My Life: The Autobiography of George Sand, edited by Thelma Jurgrau, pp. 7-29. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.

Focuses on Sand's representation of gender and the gap between the writer's declared intentions and her actual narrative, arguing that Sand's autobiography is a carefully constructed life story that foregrounds the idea of "gender in flux."

Lukacher, Maryline. "Sand: Double Identity." In Maternal Fictions: Stendhal, Sand, Rachilde, and Bataille, pp. 61-89. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1994.

Examines the function of the doubled female figures in Indiana and their connection to Sand's relationship with the two mother figures in her life.

Massardier-Kenney, Françoise. "A Question of Silence: George Sand's Nanon." Nineteenth-Century French Studies 21, nos. 3-4 (spring-summer 1993): 357-65.

Explores the narrative techniques in Nanon.

——. Introduction to Gender in the Fiction of George Sand, pp. 1-14. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodolpi, 2000.

Examines the strategies Sand uses in her novels to question the definitions of gender.

Miller, Nancy K. "Writing from the Pavilion: George Sand and the Novel of Female Pastoral." In Subject to Change: Reading Feminist Writing, pp. 206-28. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

Explores the spatial and sexual economy of Valentine to highlight Sand's attempt to provide an alternative to marriage for women.

Naginski, Isabelle Hoog. George Sand: Writing for Her Life. Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1991, 281 p.

Focuses on Sand's contribution to the development of the modern novel in terms of her conscious distancing from the dominant nineteenth-century French male tradition and her attempts to create a female poetics based upon an androgynous vision.

O'Brien, Dennis. "George Sand and Feminism." In George Sand Papers: Conference Proceedings, 1976, pp. 76-79. New York: AMS Press, 1980.

Attempts to place Sand in her own socio-historical context, highlighting her commitment to equality and to the revolt against male domination as evidence of her proto-feminism.

Petrey, Sandy. "George and Georgina Sand: Realist Gender in Indiana. "In Textuality and Sexuality: Reading Theories and Practices, edited by Judith Still and Michael Worton, pp. 133-47. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1993.

Places Indiana in the tradition of French realism by reading it as a novel that focuses on the socio-historical forces that determine the construction of gender identities.

Prasad, Pratima. "Deceiving Disclosure: Androgony and George Sand's Gabriel." French Forum 24, no. 3 (September 1999): 331-51.

Discusses the issues of transvestism and androgony and the related theme of masquerade in the novel Gabriel.

Rea, Annabelle. "Maternity and Marriage: Sand's Use of Fairy Tale and Myth." Studies in the Literary Imagination 12, no. 2 (fall 1979): 37-47.

Examines Sand's transformation of fairy tales into vehicles for her ideas on social change.

——. "Toward a Definition of Women's Voice in George Sand's Novels: The Siren and the Witch." In George Sand: Collected Essays, edited by Janis Glasgow, pp. 227-38. Troy, New York: Whitson, 1985.

Asserts that Sand's portrayal of women emphasizes women's need to speak out and deconstruct stereotypes, which casts vocal women as sirens or witches.

Rogers, Nancy. "Psychosexual Identity and the Erotic Imagination in the Early Novels of George Sand." Studies in the Literary Imagination 12, no. 2 (fall 1979): 19-35.

Examines Sand's treatment of female sexuality.

Schor, Naomi. "Female Fetishism: The Case of George Sand." Poetics Today 6, nos. 1-2 (1985): 301-310.

Examines Sand's use of fetishism as a deliberate strategy that foregrounds her characters' and her own bisexuality.

——. "The Portrait of a Gentleman: Representing Men in (French) Women's Writing." Representations 20 (fall 1987): 113-33.

Analyzes a recurrent scene in works by Sand, Mme. de Staël, and Mme. de Lafayette with a view to opening a broader discussion of the representation of men by women writers.

——. "Idealism in the Novel: Recanonizing Sand." Yale French Studies 75 (1988): 56-73.

Examines reasons for Sand's virtual exclusion from the literary canon in the late nineteenth century and most of the twentieth century.

——. George Sand and Idealism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993, 275 p.

Explores the relationship between feminism and idealism in Sand's writing, discussing the effect of this conjunction on Sand's problematic position in the literary canon.

Singer, Armand E., Mary W. Singer, and Janice S. Spleth, eds. West Virginia George Sand Conference Papers, Morgantown: Department of Foreign Languages, West Virginia University, 1981, 111 p.

Collection of essays that includes commentary on Sand's ideas about gender, language, and politics.

Sivert, Eileen Boyd. "Lélia and Feminism." Yale French Studies 62 (1981): 45-66.

Compares Sand's treatment in Lélia of various problems surrounding the representation and recognition of women with the treatment of similar problems by twentieth-century French feminists Luce Irigaray and Hélène Cixous.


Additional coverage of Sand's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vols. 119, 192; DISCovering Authors; DISCovering Authors: British Edition; DISCovering Authors: Canadian Edition; DISCovering Authors Modules: Most-studied Authors and Novelists; DISCovering Authors 3.0; European Writers, Vol. 6; Feminist Writers; Guide to French Literature, 1789-Present; Literature Resource Center; Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism, Vols. 2, 42, 57; Reference Guide to World Literature, Eds. 2, 3; Twayne's World Authors; and World Literature Criticism.

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Sand, George (Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)