Classics Challenge: ‘Indiana’ by George Sand Discussion
Welcome, one and all, to the discussion post for Indiana by George Sand. As always, any participants (here or at your own blog) will be entered in a drawing to win a lovely literary prize, so definitely share your deepest thoughts and feelings about Indiana below. Feel free to bring up anything I left out and share your favorite/least favorite parts in the comments!
What geographic contrasts does Sand provide throughout the novel and what do they add to the narrative?
Beside the obvious Empire vs. Europe contrast (which I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing about from me so I won’t delve into), I thought Sand did a nice job of contrasting Paris with the countryside where Indiana lives during her brief time in France. Paris is portrayed as this seething swamp of intrigue where one can’t do anything or it will be talked about by Everyone. And the countryside is the quiet escape where no one suspects or talks about anything.
Sand also nicely uses location to play up the true nature of each of her characters by showing how they each react to different locations. Indiana, with her innocence, is consistently portrayed as entirely out of her depth and uncomfortable in Paris while Raymond, in his wickedness, is at his most dazzling in Paris. In contrast, Indiana is at ease in the country while Raymond finds it dull and longs to just get it on with her already so he can dump her and get back to Paris. Ralph, meanwhile, because of his inherent level-headedness and good judgment, is able to exist in both places comfortably.
Consider Indiana as a character. Is she a stunning illustration of the lack of rights for women in the mid-19th century or a weepy excuse for a heroine? (Or something else entirely!)
I’m divided. I didn’t like Indiana at all, but I can also appreciate the strength of her misguided convictions and the independence she seizes whilst following them. Not to mention the unfortunate situation she is placed in because of her early marriage to the Colonel. And I suspect she is supposed to be an illustration of the ills befalling women at the time, but she does get downright Radcliffean sometimes which makes it difficult to take her seriously on any level.
I guess in the end I’m just not sure she’s a very good illustration of anything other than the tragedy of undereducating women. Because she was kept in a state of pristine, virginal innocence, she is utterly incapable of accurately judging someone as predatory and insincere as Raymond, while also being unable to act intelligently for her own part. And perhaps this was Sand’s point? Women should be given opportunities in the world just like men and should not be confined to the domestic sphere? Maybe?
What do you make of the book’s Conclusion? Does it make the rest of the novel less powerful or provide important closure for readers?
On the one hand, I really appreciated it since the last chapter of the book was so utterly shocking that I was left literally gaping from the moment Ralph proposed a joint suicide to the end of the book when he manfully lifts her in his arms so they jump off the cliff together. My head was just screaming, WHAT?!
But, on the other hand, I do think adding in a coda that explains how they didn’t commit suicide after all and are living happily together in seclusion and freeing slaves with their vast wealth definitely made the overall message of the novel less forceful. If Sand were trying to make a point of the tragedy of women’s lives in the period and how the system needs reform, saving her heroine at the last minute and then slapping a magical happy ending (true love!) on the book certainly didn’t help her argument.
So what did you all thing of the novel? I am really continuing my lack of enthusiasm for French literature despite my best efforts to like it (see also: Balzac and Colette), unfortunately! Does anyone have any recommendations for something I might like that’s French? So far Dumas and Hugo are the only two French authors I’ve been able to get behind.
In any event, up next in the non-Atwood branch of the Challenge is Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. I’ve heard some great things about it and am looking forward to discussing, so see you back here on September 23!