To truly appreciate George Sand's novel, Indiana, I feel as though I need to have read at least some of Balzac's novels as well as some of Sand's later works, have some background knowledge of French politics and society ca. 1830, knowledge of realist French literature, and a basic understanding of Freudian theory (sheesh this man pops in literature all over the place...I must read up on him, I guess). Well, upon reading the introduction to the novel and some criticism, I feel that way anyhow. What you would think is simply a novel of romance and betrayal has so many undercurrents and themes running through it, it is leaving my head spinning. I wish I could say now I am going to annotate these various subjects to you, in easy understandable prose, but alas, I don't think I am entirely up to that. I couldn't even find a decent picture of Bourbon Island to snatch and share with you here (where part of the novel is set).
So, instead, let me tell you a little bit about this thin little novel. I will try not to give too much away, but if you plan on reading Indiana, beware of possible spoilers.
Indiana is a young woman, born on Bourbon Island and married off to a much older man (your basic loveless marriage). I'm not sure what happened to her mother or her father, but she has been raised primarily by an older cousin, Ralph. She also is very close to Noun, her maid, who was raised alongside her. Both are Creoles. When we meet Indiana she is living in France with her husband and the phlegmatic (as he is described in the book), Ralph. There is an intruder on the estate--M. Delmare (Indiana's husband) goes off to investigate and perhaps "do away" with the villain. The villain, wounded, is brought into the house--enter stage left, Raymon--our seducer. Not to worry. Surely he is no villain. He gives a rather corny excuse as to why he was there, but really he is their aristocratic and very attractive neighbor. Shall I tell you why he really was there? He doesn't just seduce Indiana, he has already done the dirty with her maid. Indiana doesn't know this, and by the time she finds out, it is already too late and she will be in love with him. It took me until the end of the novel to figure out (and later confirm in the introduction) that Indiana actually remains virginal all the way to the end.
What I found interesting about this novel was the "mirroring" of themes--(thanks to Litlove for the heads up). Indiana and Noun are almost twins/two parts of a whole.
"Noun was Madame Delmare's 'milk sister'; brought up together, these two young women loved each other tenderly. Noun was tall, strong, beaming with health, alert, and full of ardent, passionate Creole blood; her shining beauty eclipsed the pale and frail charms of Madame Delmare; but the goodness of their hearts and the strength of their mutual attachment eliminated all feeling of rivalry."
According from my extra readings that is not the only parallel. Indiana and Ralph are considered "doubles" as well. Ralph, M. Delmare and Raymon are considered a set and the mirror of them is Indiana, Noun and Laure de Nangy. How does an author fill one small novel with so much "stuff"? Do they set out to do this intentionally? Or is it the critics who later dig it all up pick it apart and infuse the meaning they think they see? Sand didn't have the benefit of Freud to know some of this stuff, but I guess whatever it is that we all have swimming around in our subconscious is there (we just don't know about it). I didn't like the idea that Indiana and Ralph's coming together at the end was considered incestuous. I know he was meant to be brother-like throughout much of the novel, but they weren't really, so I'd rather not go there. And I haven't even mentioned the whole theme of marriage and subjugation of women in this enterprise (I can't leave out the feminists). You see, there is simply too much to tackle in one short post.
But I can say I enjoyed this novel. I might have eventually read Sand, but then again I might not have gotten around to reading her anytime soon. I thought she would be a good choice for the Slaves to read and discuss, and it seems like there will be lots to discuss! I liked the character, Indiana, but why do women always fall for these jokers? I suppose he seemed decent enough. The reader got to see his other side, and every time I would just shake my head! I am glad that it didn't end badly, as I suspected in that last chapter. And I agree with Stefanie about poor Ophelia. I hate it when authors let bad things happen to animals! You can read more about Indiana here! And maybe there will be discussion here (not sure how we get a forum set up?)?