Mauprat is, in a sense, an allegory of the last days of feudal France as it yielded to the new ideas brought in by the French Revolution. Sand did not dispute its fairy-tale trappings and format. The Mauprat family, consisting of a father and seven brothers living in lawless isolation in their great medieval castle of Roche-Mauprat, has from time immemorial lorded it over the surrounding countryside. The days are gone when the Mauprats could legally confiscate from the local peasants; the Mauprats now survive by outright robbery. These men embody every vice: laziness, lechery, drunkenness, arrogance, deceit, cruelty, and ignorance. Their only redeeming quality is boldness, inherited from their knightly ancestors. For Sand, Roche-Mauprat represents a crucible in which to test Rousseau’s doctrine of humankind’s innate goodness.
Into this den of thieves is brought Bernard Mauprat, their orphaned cousin, an uncorrupted child of seven. Can his essential nature and early rearing survive ten years of indoctrination in the Mauprats’ vices?
The wicked Mauprats deceive the beautiful young woman Edmée, who has become separated from her hunting companions, into seeking shelter in their lair. Bernard is charged with guarding her. Edmée believes that he is redeemable, if he can be reeducated. She notices that Bernard is falling in love with her. They conclude a bargain: If he will help her escape, no other man will have her before Bernard. Bernard does not...
(The entire section is 608 words.)