Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 430
Consuelo has many of the faults of early romantic novels and has been saved from oblivion only by the fact that George Sand was far more intelligent and talented than the average author of popular romances. She frequently digresses from her rambling narrative to lecture on a variety of subjects, including history, famous personalities of the eighteenth century, music, architecture, fashions, furnishings, social conditions, and human nature. Chapter 56 contains an essay on folk art which displays Sand’s intelligence, learning, and socialistic ideology; chapter 74 contains a poetic essay on loneliness; chapter 97 contains a moving description of the silence and mystery of an empty theater; and chapter 101 contains an eloquent discussion of the function of art.
The whole novel demonstrates Sand’s extraordinary musical knowledge. The superior quality of her writing is attributable to her keen intelligence, her breadth of self-education, and her associations with many of the greatest personalities of her time, including poet Alfred de Musset, composer Frédéric Chopin, and novelist Gustave Flaubert.
The modern reader may find it difficult to believe in the novel’s grotesque characters or melodramatic events, which were in keeping with the traditions of the romantic novel developed by such writers as Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823). A minor character named Zdenko will remind many readers of the deformed, demented Igor in the film Frankenstein (1931), one version of another melodramatic nineteenth century novel. Sand’s characters do not change in spite of all of their adventures and emotional torment. Consuelo remains the same chaste, high-minded girl that she was at the beginning of the story. She was reared on the streets but has a huge vocabulary and impeccable grammar; she speaks Spanish, Italian, and German and seems to have the ability to pick up other languages overnight. Men fall madly in love with her. Her voice captivates everyone who hears her sing.
The feature of the novel most likely to disturb the modern reader is the long-winded, unrealistic dialogue. The characters do not converse but make speeches at each other full of noble sentiments. Fiction readers of the nineteenth century were not bothered by such hyperbole. Outrageously inflated dialogue was to be found in many contemporary novels, such as those of Sir Walter Scott and Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was not until the emergence of realism in fiction with such novelists as Émile Zola and Flaubert that the reading public seemed to become aware that real people did not talk or act like the characters in the earlier novels. Realism was a violent reaction to Romanticism and effectively shoved the old-fashioned romantic novel into oblivion.
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