Commentary

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Last Updated on August 4, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 380

Indiana, the title character of George Sand’s 1832 novel, is a young Creole woman married to an older husband. On one level, her story is a romance much in keeping with other contemporary fiction, but it also stands out for the protagonist's rejection of the social norms of the day. In this book, social and political issues are interwoven with more typical romance. These include issues of class and colonialism, as the novel is set in both France and the island colony Reunion. Because Indiana is Creole, she triply represents liminality, or otherness, through her race, gender, and colonial origin—and this is complicated further by her extreme youth.

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Through a romantic infatuation with the charming Raymon, she struggles against the strictures of loveless marriage that have rendered her weak and enervated. Her relationship with a third man, Ralph—a cousin, old friend, and confidant who loves her purely and deeply—further complicates the situation. Yet suspense at the ultimate resolution is not what keeps the reader’s interest. That the romance will turn out a tragedy seems all too likely, as Indiana has obviously fallen for a cad. Raymon’s protestations of love are really a silver-tongued seducer’s lies, she realizes. It seems that the more she aims to claim her own life, the more the male characters drag her into a morass of emotional conflicts from which she may never escape. Ultimately, though the author presents Indiana’s match with Ralph in positive terms, the reader is left to wonder if her love for him is strong enough to sustain the bond of affection.

The contradictions that Sand incorporates seem to reflect her own lack of faith in the possibility of meaningful social change. In her time, realistic options for self-support outside marriage were not available for middle-class women. The even tighter strictures that applied to working-class women are presented through the suicide of Indiana's disgraced, pregnant maid. Indiana is usually read as a pioneering feminist novel, as the young woman clearly rebels against social strictures. Yet on some levels, Indiana is still a conventional romantic heroine, led by her heart rather than her head. She is apparently drawn into doing good (fighting against slavery) by a personal relationship with Ralph, more than by her own convictions.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on August 4, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 511

Published in 1832, Indiana has several themes which are still relevant today. Amantine Aurore Dupin, using the pseudonym George Sands, crafts a story about a French upper-class woman trapped by society in her loveless marriage. Sands uses the story of Indiana Delmare to present an argument for women's rights. Through the tale of Indiana's struggle to find love and happiness, Sands discusses the desires and wants of 19th Century women and offers a social critique on the inequality between the sexes. Both of these themes support her larger protest of the French marriage laws of the time.

It is clear that there is no love between Indiana and her husband, Colonel Delmare. Sands describes his actions against her as not just loveless but mean and abusive; however, the strict marriage laws in France during the time of the novel prevent her from leaving him. If she were to try to leave them, she would have no claims to any children, property, or money, and didn't even have the legal right to gain a divorce. Therefore many women, just like our main character, were forced to stay in marriages they did not want to be in preventing them from finding love and living happy, fulfilled lives. Sands argues against this restrictive and oppressive societal expectation.

Women in the 19th century were limited to their social classes. Fluidity between the classes was almost unheard of and while men could have mistresses, the social stigma was too much for most women. In the novel, Indiana reaches a point where she no longer cares what society thinks about her; she loves Raymon and will accept just being his mistress if it means that she has a chance to be happy. Unfortunately for her, Raymon does not share the same love of her. He too wants social mobility and leaves her for a more advantageous marriage.

Though they are clearly not nice men, and treat our novel's heroine badly, French society of the time reward men such as Colonel Delmare and Raymon de Ramière as good men. They have status, wealth, and prestige despite the damage they leave behind. The colonel is mean and abusive towards his wife; he tries to isolate her and bring her down. Raymon leads women on. Indiana's maid, Noun, commits suicide after an affair with Raymon. She falls in love with him and believes they will be married after she discovers that she is pregnant, but he does not return her affections. Instead, he moves on to Indiana leaving Noun disgraced and on her own. Unable to handle the rejection, she drowns herself.

It is only when Indiana is free from the society that she is able to find happiness. Alone her cousin, Sir Ralph, comes to help her. She realizes that he has been her love all along, and the two are free to live without the watchful eyes of society judging them. The reader is left to decide if society's rules are too confining and if it's better for both men and women to live a life without them.


Form and Content

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 695

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 factory. Indiana avoids Raymon, but eventually they are thrown together and her love for him revives. Ralph tries to separate them but is unable, resigning himself to keeping the affair from Delmare. When Delmare breaks his leg, Raymon visits him daily in order to see Indiana, and he and Ralph, although forced to appear friends, develop a strong antipathy for each other. Delmare leaves on a business trip, and Ralph sets up a vigilant watch over Indiana and tries to warn her by revealing the cause of Noun’s suicide. When Raymon comes to her that night, she questions him. As he is admitting his culpability in Noun’s death, Ralph slips a note under the door alerting them to Delmare’s return.

When Delmare plans to retire to Île Bourbon, Indiana declares her willingness to abandon him, and Raymon’s ardor cools. Indiana runs away from Delmare and comes to Raymon, who reproaches her and tries to send her away, saying that it would be dishonorable to accept her sacrifice. She replies that since she has not spent the night beneath her husband’s roof, she is already disgraced in the eyes of society. Raymon forces Indiana from the house. Leaving, the distraught Indiana throws herself in the river, seeking to follow Noun’s example. Ralph rescues her and brings her home. Her husband demands to know where she spent the night, but she refuses to tell him. Delmare and Indiana leave for Bourbon, accompanied by Ralph.

Raymon falls ill and begins to regret Indiana’s loss, imagining her nursing him. On a whim, he writes her a letter urging her to leave her husband and come to him, but he then forgets about the letter. Meanwhile, Delmare reads Indiana’s journal and discovers her affair. He attacks her and subsequently suffers a stroke. When Raymon’s letter arrives, Indiana finds a ship going to France and bribes the captain in order to arrange passage. Meanwhile, Raymon courts and wins Laure de Nangy, a wealthy heiress. Upon Indiana’s arrival, she is met by the sardonic Laure, who sees in the confrontation a chance to forever gain the upper hand over her new husband. Raymon puts Indiana in a carriage for Paris, where she finds Ralph, who brings news of her husband’s death. Ralph reveals his love for Indiana, and the two resolve to commit suicide. They do so, but in the contradictory final chapter, the reader discovers the two living in solitude on Bourbon.

Places Discussed

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Last Updated on August 4, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 623

Réunion

*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

*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

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 Delmare, and Sir Ralph Brown, are at Lagny when Raymon de Ramière bursts into their life. His entry disturbs the peace of the family and the relationships between the three characters. He is a corrupt aristocrat and a product of Parisian society and brings no end of trouble to their bourgeois household. His country home, Cercy, where his sweet old mother lives, is near the Delmares’ home. Bellerive, Sir Ralph’s family home, is located between Lagny and Crécy. This is a symbol of the way Ralph is constantly coming between Indiana and Raymon. Raymon came to Lagny for the first time to meet Noun, Indiana’s maid and childhood friend, whom he has gotten pregnant before the beginning of the narrative. When Noun is deserted by Raymon after he attempts to seduce Indiana, she drowns herself in a stream near Lagny.

Paris

*Paris. Capital of France, in which Indiana begins to court Raymon, though he first meets her in the country. He dances with her at a Parisian salon, where she is chaperoned by her aunt, Madame de Carvajal. Both Raymon and Madame de Carvajal are products of Parisian society and, thus, are corrupted by it. Even though he had sworn to love her always and to do anything for her, Raymon abandons Indiana on two occasions when she has fled from her brutal husband. When she was abandoned the first time, she was already in Paris with her husband. The second time, Indiana had crossed the seas from Réunion, only to be spurned again by Raymon, who had married another woman. Madame de Carvajal refuses Indiana her support as soon as Indiana has “dishonored” herself by going to Raymon’s house at five o’clock in the morning. Twice Indiana wanders along the banks of the Seine River contemplating suicide and is saved by Ralph. On the first occasion he is accompanied by Ophelia, his dog, who is later murdered in the water by sailors taking Indiana back to France. Indiana has some moments of happiness in Paris when she believes Raymon loves her; however, when she imagines Paris with anticipation, the narrator is quick to note that Paris was the site of her most unhappy moments.

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