George Sand is important in literary history for being a pioneer in the development of the category of fiction known as the romantic novel. Some modern classics in the genre are Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938) and Margaret Mitchell’s famous Civil War novel Gone with the Wind (1936). Earlier classics in the genre include Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847). It is interesting to note that Consuelo contains some of the elements that have come to be practically indispensable to such novels. Two of the most popular elements are the Cinderella theme and the theme of a woman torn between love for two different men. Sand uses both in Consuelo, the story of a poor girl who marries a handsome aristocrat and becomes a wealthy countess. The heroine is torn between love for the passionate but fickle Anzoleto and the noble but neurotic Albert.
The element of the vagabond in Consuelo undoubtedly appealed to female readers of Sand’s time, many of whom lived housebound, dependent lives and could identify with a heroine who had the courage to live under the open sky, travel wherever she pleased, and obtain the necessities of life through her own wit and talent. The book is a powerful statement about the rights of the individual—male or female. It attacks corruption and hypocrisy and explores the difficulties that face an independent woman. Sand knew the pain of independence, and she steered her heroine through the traps waiting for any woman who tried to achieve success in her own right. Consuelo saves herself much suffering by avoiding financial or psychological dependence on men, subjugating her personality to no one. Her character explores the experience of a woman searching for personal integrity.
Her novels are often neglected because they have old-fashioned characteristics that annoy impatient readers. The modern...
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