Biography of George Sand
One of the most successful female writers of the nineteenth century and a feminist before the invention of the word, George Sand was born Armandine Aurore Lucille Dupin in Paris, France, on July 1, 1804, related to nobility on her father’s side. After her father’s death when she was four, Aurore, her mother, and her grandmother moved from Paris to Nohant, France.
At nineteen she married Baron Casimir Dudevant with whom she had two children. At twenty-seven Aurore moved to Paris, leaving her husband and two children behind in 1835. She began writing articles for a living and met many writers. Henri de Latouche and historian Charles Sainte-Beuvebecame her mentors.
She earned a great reputation in Paris as a writer and as a bold and brilliant woman, and gained many admirers. Aurore fell in love with Jules Sandeau, with whom she collaborated on her first novel “Rose et Blanche” in 1831, and other articles with the collective pseudonym “J. Sand.” She adopted “George Sand” in her first independent novel, Indiana (1832). Her other lovers included the young poet Alfred de Musset and the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin.
George Sand had a daily quota of twenty pages, writing from midnight until dawn, never crossing out a line. All her novels are love stories in which her romantic idealism unfolds in a realistic setting. Her early works are novels of passion, written to lessen the pain of her first love affairs. Among her successful novels were “Indiana” (1832), and “Mauprat” (1837.
As George Sand grew older, she spent more and more time at Nohant and enjoyed the gentle, peaceful life she created for herself there, with her friends and her grandchildren. Her quest for the absolute in love had led her through years of stormy affairs to reaching a tolerant and universal love—of God, of nature, and of children. She died in Nohant on June 9, 1876 at the age of 72. She was interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris, France.
Mauprat is a novel on love and education. It was published in serial form in April and May 1837, borrowing from fictional genres like the Gothic novel, chivalric romance, detective fiction and the historical novel.
Mauprat’s novel is a plot of female socialization, where the heroine teaches the hero how to live peacefully in society. It resembles the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast. Like Beauty, Edmee, in all her gentleness of heart and kindness of spirit shown generously to Bernard, breaks down the harsh and coarse character developed upon his parents’ death, being raised by his grandfather and uncles who were brigands. Edmee’s and her father’s belief in Bernard’s innate goodness stems from knowledge of his mother’s gentle spirit and having influenced the earliest years of his life before her death.
This novel likewise seems to be a proof of the power of education, i.e. knowledge and higher learning enable even the most primeval savage to transcend their baser nature and acquire loftier, nobler ideals and convictions, consequently bringing along with it refinement of character and behavior.
Long before the concept of feminism, George Sand’s Mauprat is a testimony of a woman’s immense power and thus, significant role in a society. Not in aggressive confrontation or physical prowess, but in the subtlety, and soft but firmness of integrity and character, wherein the woman tears down the walls of men’s combative nature and lures them with her convictions. The gentle firmness in the young woman’s resolve to bring out the man’s nobler spirit proved to be mroe effective and lasting than the older men’s cruelty and harsh teaching of the young boy to become as they were.
Mauprat belies fataslism and further shows that no one is ever hopelessly un-correctable. As explained by Bernard in the last chapter, no one’s fate is predetermined. Instead, each one is shaped by “instincts, our faculties, the impressions of our infancy, the surroundings of our earliest childhood—in short, by all that outside world which has presided over the development of our soul.” A person’s worth is only as s/he is loved, for it is that love that leads the way to the appropriate education for that person – indulgent or severe.
Finally Mauprat reveals the strong influence of Rousseau on Sand, where Rousseau’s basic philosophy of the innate goodness of man is brought out in Bernard’s lifestory.
Indiana was published in 1832, the first novel published under the pseudonym George Sand. This novel is about the conventions of romanticism and idealism blending into awareness of realism.
Indiana is a story of love and marriage. Indiana, the main character is a Creole married to a much older ex-army Colonel Delmare. Her childhood playmate Noun goes and lives with her upon her marriage, so does her cousin, Ralph.
Indiana is physically weak, and often ailing, prone to swooning. The absence of love, or romantic love as perceived by Indiana, in her marriage to the Colonel adds to her frequent illnesses. She seeks out passionate love, unmindful of the devotion of her cousin as a sign of adoring love on his part. Instead she allowed herself to fall under the seductions of their young and handsome neighbor Raymon. Unknown to them all, except for the gardener, Raymon had earlier seduced Noun and gotten her pregnant, with no intention of marrying her. Raymon “loved Noun with his senses and Indiana with his heart”. Noun, upon learning of this situation, commits suicide and drowns herself.
Indiana keeps going back and forth between being enamored of Raymon, falling under his seductive words and checking herself in awareness of society’s condemnation of a possible affair. In the meantime, Raymon had befriended her husband. When the Delmare estate goes bankcrupt and they left for Ile Bourbon. From there she escapes and goes back to France, only to find that Raymon, now well married, had bought their old house. She is also informed by her cousin Ralph of the Colonel’s death. Indiana and Ralph at first decided to commit suicide but fall in love on the way. Declaring their love for each other somehow removes all thought of the suicide and the story ends with an adventurer meeting them in an isolated plantation.
This novel presents social norms and conventions in the 19th century, the constraints on a woman by society. In a marriage, the wife is the servant or slave to the husband, always the master. That a man to be called upright does not include being fair and kind to his wife. After reading Indiana, one can easily appreciate the leaps and bounds taken in favor of women not as mere possessions.