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Document 6: George Sand [Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, baroness Dudevant], excerpts from Indiana (originally published in Paris, 1832). Reprinted in George Sand, Indiana: With a New Chronology of Her Life and Work, translated by George Burnham Ives (Chicago: Cassandra Editions, Academy Press Ltd, 1978), pp. 205-08.

George Sand, c. 1830

Source: Bonnie S. Anderson and Judith P. Zinsser, A History of Their Own: Women in Europe from
Prehistory to the Present, Volume II
(New York: Harper & Row, 1988), opposite p. 106.

Introduction

        The French writer George Sand also called for the reform of marriage. This excerpt from her 1832 novel, Indiana, depicts a heroine who attempts to run away from her husband but is unable to do so.

       Madame Delmare, when she heard her husband's imprecations, felt stronger than she expected. She preferred this fierce wrath, which reconciled her with herself, to a generous forbearance which would have aroused her remorse. She wiped away the last trace of her tears and summoned what remained of her strength, which she was well content to expend in a day, so heavy a burden had life become to her. Her husband accosted her in a harsh and imperious tone, but suddenly changed his expression and his manner and seemed sorely embarrassed, overmatched by the superiority of her character. He tried to be as cool and dignified as she was; but he could not succeed.

        "Will you condescend to inform me, madame," he said, "where you passed the morning and perhaps the night?"

       That perhaps indicated to Madame Delmare that her absence had not been discovered until late. Her courage increased with that knowledge.

        "No, monsieur," she replied, "I do not propose to tell you."

        Delmare turned green with anger and amazement.

        "Do you really hope to conceal the truth from me?" he said, in a trembling voice.

        "I care very little about it," she replied in an icy tone."I refuse to tell you solely for form's sake. I propose to convince you that you have no right to ask me that question."

        "I have no right, ten thousand devils. Who is master here, pray tell, you or I? Which of us wears a petticoat and ought to be running a distaff? Do you propose to take the beard off my chin? It would look well on you, hussy!"

        "I know that I am the slave and you are the master. The laws of this country make you my master. You can bind my body, tie my hands, govern my acts. You have the right of the stronger, and society confirms you in it; but you cannot command my will, monsieur; God alone can bend it and subdue it. Try to find a law, a dungeon, an instrument of torture that gives you any hold on it! you might as well try to handle the air and grasp space."

        "Hold your tongue, you foolish, impertinent creature; your high-flown novelist's phrases weary me."

        "You can impose silence on me, but not prevent me from thinking."

        "Silly pride! pride of a poor worm! you abuse the compassion I have had for you! But you will soon see that this mighty will can be subdued without too much difficulty."

       "I don't advise you to try it; your response would suffer, and you would gain nothing in dignity."

        "Do you think so?" he said, crushing her hand between his thumb and forefinger.

        "I do think so," she said, without wincing.

        Ralph stepped forward, grasped the colonel's arm in his iron hand and bent it like a reed, saying in a pacific tone:

        "I beg that you will not touch a hair of that woman's head."

        Delmare longed to fly at him; but he felt that he was in the wrong and he dreaded nothing in the world so much as having to blush for himself. So he simply pushed him away, saying:

        "Attend to your own business."

        Then he returned to his wife.

        "So, madame," he said, holding his arms tightly against his sides to resist the temptation to strike her, "you rebel against me, you refuse to go to Ile Bourbon with me, you desire a separation? Very well! Mordieu! I too--"

        "I desire it no longer," she replied. "I did desire it yesterday, it was my will; it is not so this morning. You resorted to violence and locked me in my room; I went out through the window to show you that there is a difference between exerting an absurd control over a woman's actions and reigning over her will. I passed several hours away from your domination; I breathed the air of liberty in order to show you that you are not morally my master, and that I look to no one on earth but myself for orders. As I walked along I reflected that I owed it to my duty and my conscience to return and place myself under your control once more. I did it of my own free will. My cousin accompanied me here, he did not bring me back. If I had not chosen to come with him, he could not have forced me to do it, as you can imagine. So, monsieur, do not waste your time fighting against my determination; you will never control it, you lost all right to change it as soon as you undertook to assert your right by force. Make your preparations for departure; I am ready to assist you and to accompany you, not because it is your will, but because it is my pleasure. You may condemn me, but I will never obey anyone but myself."

        "I am sorry for the derangement of your mind," said the colonel, shrugging his shoulders.

        And he went to his room to put his his papers in order well satisfied in his heart with Madame Delmare's resolution and anticipating no further obstacles; for he respected her word as much as he despised her ideas.

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