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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, 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.

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 September 6, 2023, 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...

(This entire section contains 511 words.)

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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.