Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 614
Indiana deals with the freedom of the individual; in it, George Sand tries to do away with romantic notions of choice and to present humans made thoroughly miserable by the structures and imposed silences of society. She observed in the preface to the 1832 edition 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 in sore distress.” Throughout the novel, an atmosphere of gloom and melancholy prevail, while physical love is presented as a hallucinatory delusion. Indiana and Ralph, the most sympathetic characters, are shown as passive beings driven almost mad by the pressures of society, while the guileless Noun is impelled to kill herself from similar pressures.
Speech is the way in which these characters attempt to declare their autonomy; throughout the work, characters engage in lengthy monologues or equally lengthy letters, which Sand reproduces in full. Ralph, inarticulate at the beginning of Indiana, is by the end able to utter the prolonged statement which preludes his and Indiana’s suicide attempt; Indiana, silent and dreamy, pens lengthy missives to Raymon and finally silences him with her eloquence. It is their final breaking through to articulation which allows them to remain unsilenced by the attempted suicide and to emerge in the final chapter as beings who speak directly with the narrator for the first time. Those movements toward eloquence reflect a similar movement in the author; Sand repeatedly emphasized that Indiana’s writing was a process of inspired rush, of finding and claiming her authorial voice. Certainly, the publication of Indiana moved Sand from anonymity to literary celebrity.
It is not only the characters of Ralph and Indiana who speak. Delmare employs the diction of a soldier from the onset, but he accompanies it with actions designed to silence those around him, such as shooting Raymon or killing Indiana’s dog. Raymon himself is a creature, it seems, purely of words. His words allow him to win Indiana, while his letters rekindle their love every time that she tries to repudiate him; in fact, his letter leads Indiana to the final desperate act of fleeing Bourbon and coming to him. Both these characters employ a speech recognized and validated by society—the language of warfare, politics, or seduction by men. Sand stresses that both characters, whom the reader comes to see as despicable, are working within society’s rules and are defined by society as good and valued individuals, despite any feelings that the reader might possess to the contrary.
The ending is ambiguous. Although Indiana and Ralph have survived, they live in a state of exile, which seems to indicate that an ideal relationship between a woman and a man can exist only outside society, and their relationship can also be read as an incestuous one. This ambiguity is troublesome when one reads the work as the story of the individual’s development. Indiana does learn to look beyond the narratives presented to her by society, such as the idea that she, like Sleeping Beauty, will be awakened and brought to psychological fruition by a Prince Charming such as Raymon. Yet the story that becomes her life is one of isolation and a hermit’s existence, which admittedly seems preferable to the claustrophobic scene that opens the novel.
At the same time, the ending returns the reader to the beginning of the story when the narrator’s relationship to the story is explained: He is simply retelling the story told to him by Ralph at the end of the book, which implies that the individual’s struggle for autonomy will never achieve resolution.