Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Indiana is devoted to exploring women’s position in society, the marital relationship, and the family and to condemning the laws that govern women’s existence. The book begins on a rainy autumn evening in Brie, when Colonel Delmare, hunting charcoal poachers, shoots Raymon de Ramière. Raymon, brought into the house and revived, claims that he slipped over the wall to examine the machinery in Delmare’s factory, but he has actually come to meet Noun, Delmare’s maid.

When Raymon wearies of Noun, he re-encounters Indiana, the colonel’s young wife, at a party in Paris and is struck by her beauty and delicacy. He woos her ardently, and Indiana begins to reciprocate his passion. A letter from Noun announcing her pregnancy forces Raymon to meet her at the Delmare estate. Sensing that her lover’s interest has waned, Noun prepares a seductive nest in Indiana’s own boudoir. Her tears and pleas persuade Raymon to make love to her—although, drunk, he imagines that she is Indiana.

Raymon tells Noun that he will not marry her, although he offers her a substantial settlement. Indiana returns unexpectedly, and Noun, panic-stricken, hides Raymon behind a curtain. Indiana discovers Raymon, who covers himself by claiming that his love for her has brought him there. Indignant, Indiana orders him away and reproaches Noun for aiding him. Although she says nothing, Noun realizes that Raymon loves Indiana. The equally unexpected return of Sir Ralph Brown, Indiana’s devoted cousin, forces Raymon to flee. The following day, Indiana discovers the body of Noun, whose despair has led her to drown herself.

Two months later, Colonel Delmare invites Raymon to inspect his...

(The entire section is 695 words.)

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Réunion. Island in the Indian Ocean, four hundred miles east of Madagascar, Réunion is an overseas department of France. This is the island where Indiana, Noun, and Ralph were born. Although both Indiana and Ralph were unhappy as children, neither appreciated nor kindly treated by their families, they have happy memories of times they spent together in nature. It is because of these happy memories that Indiana and Ralph decide to return to Réunion to commit suicide. Sand’s descriptions of this island are based on the memories and notes of her friend, Jules Néraud, who had visited the island. Despite this accurate information, Sand makes some errors in distance and in describing some areas.


*Bernica. Gorge on Réunion that is particularly beautiful and which was Ralph’s favorite place in his youth. Ralph and Indiana return to the island intending to commit suicide by throwing themselves into a huge waterfall that flows into this gorge. However, when Ralph tells Indiana the secret story of his love for her, the two decide to stay alive and live together amid nature, isolated from society at Bernica.


Lagny. Château of the Delmares in the Brie area of France, east of Paris. While the château is imaginary, its location is accurate in a real area near the town of Melun. The house resembles Plessis-Picard, a country home owned by Sand’s friends, where she met her husband. The main characters, Madame Delmare, Colonel...

(The entire section is 623 words.)


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Indiana, one of Sand’s earliest novels, is a strongly feminist work which analyses the restrictions that a patriarchal society places on women, and it explores the individual’s options in trying either to obey or to circumvent those restrictions. The device of using a narrator marked as male who is strongly sympathetic to a female character demonstrates the move toward androgyny that permeates Sand’s work. Indiana was originally assumed by critics to have been written by a man with the assistance or input of a woman; when it became known that the author was female, she was hailed as an extraordinary being. The book was affirmed one of the most important works of the year; Honoré de Balzac called it “delightfully conceived” and asserted that its success was inevitable.

The book is, to some extent, autobiographical, but the reader who focuses only on this aspect will lose much in doing so. The text represents an attempt to reclaim the novel—a form becoming at that time increasingly respectable and hence increasingly masculine—for women. The protagonist is presented as a being as sensitive and introspective as any male character of the time. Indiana’s impassioned speeches condemning the system of power that has brought her to an oppressive marriage were cited as examples of Sand’s interest in women’s rights, and certainly an assertion of those rights was a major theme throughout her writings. Sand points out repeatedly that Delmare, who abuses his wife and condemns her to stultification and isolation, is considered by society a “good” man and that, in fact, he is only obeying society’s rules. Simultaneously, the characters of Noun and Indiana allow Sand to show that the two roles traditionally assigned women, either the chaste upper-class angel or the sexually active lower-class servant, are equally fraught with difficulty and frustration.

Women’s studies scholars have revived interest in George Sand: Her work was largely ignored at the beginning of the twentieth century, and it was not until feminist scholars began to explore women’s writing that interest in her substantial body of work revived. Scholars finally began to move away from the distorted caricature of Sand as a cross-dressing libertine with literary ambitions.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Cate, Curtis. George Sand: A Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1975. This biography of Sand may help readers understand parallels between the subject matter of Indiana and her own life. Also provides an account of how Indiana was received.

Crecelius, Kathryn J. Family Romances: George Sand’s Early Novels. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Chronicles the early period of Sand’s literary career, when her thematic focus was directed toward rebellion against the oppression of traditional marriage. Offers criticism and interpretation of Indiana; considers the work in the context of other novels from this period in Sand’s career.

Datlof, Natalie, Jeanne Fuchs, and David A. Powell, eds. The World of George Sand. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991. Contains papers presented at the Seventh International George Sand Conference at Hofstra University in 1986. The topics range widely; a number of articles will prove useful to Indiana scholars, such as Marilyn Yalom’s “George Sand’s Poetics of Autobiography” and Margaret E. Ward and Karen Storz’s “Fanny Lewald and George Sand: Eine Lebensfrage and Indiana.”

Dickenson, Donna. George Sand: A Brave Man, the Most Womanly Woman. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988. Offers insight into...

(The entire section is 516 words.)