Indiana by George Sand is an 1832 novel about a young woman who seeks happiness in the face of a loveless marriage and a disastrous affair.
- Indiana is unhappily married to Colonel Delmare. Indiana falls for Raymon de Ramière, who is secretly having an affair with her friend and maid, Noun.
- The affair drives Noun to take her own life. Indiana, not aware of the whole truth, then falls for the fickle Raymon.
- After moving to Bourbon Island with her husband, Indiana returns to France to be Raymon but discovers that he has married.
- Indiana finally finds joy in marrying her cousin, Ralph.
Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 971
The protagonist of George Sand’s 1832 novel Indiana is the eponymous Indiana, a woman originally from French Louisiana but who, alongside her Creole maid, Noun, is living in France at the beginning of the book. Indiana is unhappily married to a former army colonel, Delmare, whose attentions resulted in her leaving the United States in the first place. Delmare tends to ignore his wife’s feelings and opinions and rules his household with an iron fist. Indiana feels hopeless about her situation. And she feels that Sir Ralph Brown, who unofficially lives with them, is too weak to defend her against Delmare. Ralph is Indiana’s cousin, and they were very close as children, when Indiana was much neglected by her family. He is kind to her and does his best to distract Delmare from his rages.
Delmare is aware that his wife is under considerable mental duress and decides that a move to Paris for the thriving social season might distract her from her misery. The group takes a house. One night, a scuffle breaks out when an intruder appears. Delmare fires his gun, whereupon the intruder announces himself as Raymon de Ramière, a socialite who says he would like to speak to Delmare on business. Delmare pretends to accept this, and Indiana naively does, too, not recognizing that Noun is clearly discomfited by the appearance of Raymon. Meanwhile, Delmare and Ralph separately recognize that Raymon is actually having an affair with Noun, whom he met at a fair. When the Delmares leave for a short time, the affair continues, until Raymon breaks it off, feeling that Noun is below him.
When the Delmares return, Raymon is drawn to the beautiful Indiana and begins to pursue her over the course of the season, and eventually Indiana falls in love with him. She is unaware that Raymon’s initial purpose in visiting the house by night had been to see his mistress, Noun. Although Indiana loves Raymon, she refuses to engage in a physical affair with him. Eventually, Raymon once again enters the house at night—to find not Indiana but Noun. The pair engage in a tryst, after which Raymon offers Noun money but says he cannot marry her. When Indiana returns unexpectedly the next morning, Noun tries to hide Raymon but is unsuccessful; Indiana finds him in her bedroom and screams. Raymon begs forgiveness, but Indiana dismisses him.
Noun commits suicide. It is revealed that she had been pregnant and distressed by both Raymon’s attention to Indiana and his refusal to marry Noun. Indiana is extremely upset by the whole situation, having relied heavily upon her maid and feeling devastated by her absence. Noun has been long the rock upon which she has fixed her life when in her worst states of mental agony. Raymon, apparently feeling that the whole affair is more trouble than it is worth, resigns his pursuit of Indiana at the very moment that she decides she will surrender to him and goes to his house.
Raymon is not at home, but Indiana resolves to wait for him until he returns, at which point she confesses her purpose in visiting. The couple talk, and Indiana tells Raymon that she has changed her mind and that she will surrender to him and consummate their passionate affair. Unfortunately, the conversation goes on for too long; when Indiana recognizes that it is daylight, she realizes she must return home. There, she finds Delmare suspicious and angry about her having been absent overnight. He does not outright accuse his wife of infidelity, but Indiana, already fearful of him, is aware that she must behave very contritely in order to escape his ire.
Delmare’s business has been, to this point, extremely successful. When his situation abruptly changes, however, Indiana must accompany him to the Isle of Bourbon as he struggles to build his fortunes again. Here she is yet more unhappy but remains in correspondence with Raymon, and he begs her forgiveness in a letter. Indiana determines to return to France. She decides that he still loves Raymon, that he loves her, and that she will throw herself upon his mercies and ask to be his mistress once again. However, when she arrives in Paris, she finds that Raymon has quite forgotten the letter he wrote to her and has already married another woman.
The loyal Ralph follows Indiana to Paris and tries to comfort her in her devastation. Having left her husband, Indiana has no money. She is not even pleased to hear that Delmare has died of a fit in her absence, the very night she left. She decides to commit suicide. Ralph persuades her not to, and instead the pair agree that they will return to the United States and commit suicide in a beautiful place as part of a pact. Ralph, too, explains that he feels his life no longer has meaning and is too difficult to be sustainable, so he and Indiana will return to the place of their birth and die together. Ralph has always been miserable and was taught by his parents that he was not worthy of love.
This offer from Ralph, however, makes Indiana recognize that he truly loves her and that she loves him. The pair confess their love, with Ralph declaring that he has always loved Indiana and that this is why he has followed the household so diligently, accompanying Delmare and Indiana even to the Isle of Bourbon, where both Ralph and Indiana were extremely unhappy. The end of the final chapter implies that the pair commit suicide to be married in the afterlife. But the conclusion to the book reveals that, in fact, the couple have decided to stay together on Bourbon Island, living as “hermits” and healing through their love for each other.