Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 371
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.
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