The main characters in Indiana are Indiana, Colonel Delmare, Sir Ralph Brown, Noun, and Raymon de Ramière.
- Indiana is the intelligent and willful protagonist of the novel, whose tumultuous search for love and happiness drives the narrative.
- Colonel Delmare is Indiana's stern, older husband, whose militaristic manner dismays her.
- Sir Ralph Brown is Indiana's cousin, whom she has known since childhood and who cares deeply for her well-being.
- Noun is Indiana's best friend and maid, whose devotion to Indiana leads to her tragic death.
- Raymon de Ramière is a charming but selfish and fickle young man who seduces Noun and later courts Indiana.
Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1076
The eponymous protagonist, Indiana, or Madame Delmare, is a young Creole woman of nineteen who has been pressed into marriage to a much older man, Colonel Delmare, whom she does not love. It is never specified in the narrative whether either Indiana or her maid, Noun, is Black, but scholars often interpret the novel as hinting that Indiana is white and that Noun is Black.
Frequently in poor health, Indiana is prone to developing psychosomatic illnesses as a result of her chronic depression. When she is in cheerier moods, however, she is bold, resolute, playful and sprightly; she is an excellent horsewoman and is extremely beautiful. Indiana has always wanted for love, which is partly why she is so distressed by her marriage to Colonel Delmare—who is, at heart, not a cruel man. However, she was much neglected by her family as a child, being looked after mainly by her devoted cousin, Ralph. She loves both Ralph and Noun, her maid and “foster sister,” very deeply, but is desperate for passionate romantic love. This craving leads her into an unfortunate situation with the unsuitable socialite Raymon.
Colonel Delmare is Indiana’s considerably older husband. He is a retired army colonel and successful industrialist. Although he is brash, boorish, and hot-tempered, he is not deliberately cruel. He cares about his young wife and is distressed by her continued unhappiness and ill health, moving his household from town to town in order to try and stimulate some interest in his despondent wife by exposing her to society.
Indiana, however, believes Delmare to be a cruel man and is often silently obedient to him, out of a combination of defiance—she will not allow him to force her to be happy—and fear of reprisal. The Colonel is rather gullible and responds well to those who treat him well: both Ralph and Raymon are easily able to win a place in his affections, despite the fact that he vaguely fears that either might steal his wife away from him.
Sir Ralph Brown
Ten years Indiana’s senior, Ralph is an English cousin of Indiana’s who has loved her since she was a child. The happiest period of his life was when Indiana depended upon him in Bourbon Island as a young girl. At the conclusion of the story, Ralph suggests that this was because he felt they belonged to each other then.
Ralph was mistreated by his parents, who preferred his older brother and led Ralph to believe that he was selfish and unlovable. As such, he has never believed it possible for him to be happy. Forced to marry his brother’s fiancée after his brother’s death, Ralph struggles with an unhappy marriage. He is pleased, however, to discover what sort of man Indiana has married, as he knows she could never love Delmare.
After his wife’s death, Ralph sets himself to protecting Indiana, befriending Delmare and following the couple from house to house, in order to keep Indiana safe. He loathes Raymon, knowing his intentions to be ill; both Raymon and the Colonel underestimate the “insipid” Ralph, and Indiana, too, does not realize until he is finally able to release his hidden passions that she loves him.
A foil to Indiana, Noun is Indiana’s Creole maid and closest friend. Parallels are drawn between the two of them—each on one occasion dresses in the other’s clothes and is mistaken for the other. At the same time, Noun’s “resplendent” beauty is described in contrast to Indiana’s more delicate beauty. And whereas Noun’s passions quickly express themselves physically, Indiana holds herself back from Raymon, even after she has fallen in love with him. Although both women are Creole, the novel hints that Noun is Black and that Indiana is white. Unlike her mistress, Noun is uneducated; she knows that Raymon will not marry her but hopes earnestly that he will continue to love her. Her love for her mistress, however, is such that she kills herself when she believes she has lost her reputation, Raymon’s love, and Indiana’s affection in the same moment.
Raymon de Ramière
Raymon is a vibrant and self-centered socialite, beloved of almost everyone he meets. Like Delmare, he is not an inherently cruel or evil person—he loves his mother deeply, and he genuinely believes in his love for both Noun and Indiana when these passions grip him. However, he is fickle, moving quickly from one woman to another and pursuing these women without concern for their honor or reputation.
Raymon arouses enormous passion in Indiana, and he believes that he returns this passion. However, when he recognizes that marriage to Indiana would result in his being alienated from society, he reconsiders. Raymon depends on the approval of the social circles in which he moves. As such, despite his long pursuit of Indiana, he changes his mind when she offers herself to him as a mistress, preferring instead to marry Laure, a respectable young woman who will bring with her a substantial fortune.
Madame de Carvajal
Madame de Carvajal is Indiana’s aunt. She is affectionate towards and protective of her niece, even when others aren’t, and she is generally amiable. However, she proves herself to be fickle and disloyal when she realizes what has been happening between Indiana and Raymon. As soon as she comes to believe that Indiana has dishonored herself, she swears that she will never speak to her again.
Madame de Ramière
Madame de Ramière, Raymon’s mother, is a foil to Madame de Carvajal in that she is endlessly understanding of both her son and Indiana. She comforts Indiana when she has been rejected by Raymon and tells Raymon on her deathbed that he should marry Indiana, who has been like a daughter to her. Unlike her son, she is not bound by the concerns of society but instead recognizes Indiana’s intrinsic worth and freedom of spirit.
The unnamed narrator comes to the fore at times throughout the story, expressing an opinion in the first person. At the conclusion of the story, we learn that the narrator is a young man who has met Ralph once before and now journeys to Bourbon Island to discover that Indiana and Ralph are living a secretive existence there, beyond the borders of a society into which they do not fit.