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Indiana (1832): escapist romance or early feminist roman à these? Issues of stylistic choice and social conscience are intertwined in the question of how George Sand positioned—and re-positioned—her first independent entry into the changing field of the novel. Although the novel treats such serious subjects as a wife’s socially-sanctioned abuse by her husband, and the corruption of the failing years of the Bourbon Restoration, both Indiana’s narrator and Sand herself repeatedly denied that the work was meant to convey any ulterior message or offer moral utility to its reader. These denials should not be dismissed as mere pro forma modesty, but rather are part of Indiana’s complex response to the central image of an earlier literary tradition. This is the Rousseauistic image of a secluded tropical island where right-minded Europeans might escape the moral failings of “civilized” society and return to a prelapsarian paradise.

Sand’s first solo novel inherits a fraught legacy of both the literary island and its uneasy relationship with contemporary colonial realities, such as slavery. It is with these issues in mind that Indiana asks, with mordant irony, whether there is something to be learned from the spectacle of a drowning woman.


This article was originally published in George Sand Studies, 28 (2009): 1-13.

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