Posts Tagged ‘George Sand’

‘Mauprat’ by George Sand, Part 2 – A Woman Ahead of Our Time

 

‘Mauprat’ by George Sand (1837) – 384 pages                     Translated from the French by Mary K. Artois

George Sand (Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin) was a woman who was so far ahead of her time that we still haven’t caught up with her. In ‘Mauprat’, Sand gives the reader something new and different, a woman hero, not a heroine but a woman hero.

At the center of ‘Mauprat’ is the love story of Bernard and Edmee. Bernard’s life before meeting Edmee was one of banditry and drunkenness. He falls madly in love with Edmee on first meeting her, but the young lady Edmee does not allow herself to become the victim of a tyrannical and dissolute husband. Here is Bernard, still unable to control his passion:

But I was unable to obey her. My head was turned; I locked my arms around Edmee’s waist, and it was in vain that I tried to loosen them; my lips touched her neck in spite of myself ; she turned pale with rage.”

She will not marry Bernard until he meets her requirements for being civilized. She sets the rules. Edmee transforms her brutal second cousin Bernard from an ignorant coupe-jarret (cutthroat) to a humane and tender human being. Edmee teaches Bernard to subdue his passions, to honor his fellow man, and to respect her personal freedom. In ‘Mauprat’, love leads to social justice.

As the critic Mikhail Mikhailov wrote of Edmee, she was a woman who was “sufficiently educated and idealistic to infuse life with her convictions, ideas, and actions”. Another Russian critic Vissarion Belinsky in the 1840s praised ‘Mauprat’ for “its profound and poetic idea, that of a strong, intelligent, beautiful woman raising a man above his bestial passions”.

George Sand wrote romantic novels that were full of passionate personal revolt and heartfelt feminism, attitudes that went against societal conventions and outraged her early British and American critics.

Here is George Sand in real life writing to a man she may have been having a romance with:

Immodest creature, you do not want a woman who will accept your faults, you want the one who pretends you are faultless – one who will caress the hand that strikes her and kiss the lips that lie to her.”

This was written in 1837, the same year ‘Mauprat’ was published, and it certainly reflects the spirit of that novel.

I could go on and discuss other aspects of ‘Mauprat’ such as it was one of the first novels that was written in serial installments for a magazine, but I think I will leave it with one final quote from George Sand:

The world will know and understand me someday. But if that day does not arrive, it does not greatly matter. I shall have opened the way for other women.”

 

Grade:   A

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

‘Mauprat’ by George Sand – A Novel for Our Times

 

‘Mauprat’ by George Sand (1837) – 384 pages                       Translated from the French by Mary W. Artois

‘Mauprat’ takes place just before the French Revolution when the landed nobility still lorded over the peasants. Wealthy land barons terrorized their poorer neighbors. Many of these landed gentry oppressed the peasants by imposing heavy duties on them while avoiding taxes themselves.

The poor have suffered enough; they will turn upon the rich, and their castles will fail and their lands be carved up. I shall not see it; but you will. There will be ten cottages in the place of this park, and ten families will live on its revenue. There will no longer be servants or masters, or villein or lord.”

This situation was made worse because certain orders of the Catholic Church were in league with the landed gentry to oppress the peasants.

It is the indelible characteristic of the Catholic priesthood,” he said. “It cannot live without making war upon families and ferreting out every means by which it can get money from them….gentle robbery.”

George Sand

The La Roche-Mauprats are a particularly cruel and rapacious family of the nobility. The Mauprat father is “a man who had a genius for wickedness, and his sons, lacking the affection they were incapable of feeling, submitted to the ascendancy of his detestable superiority and obeyed him with a precision and promptitude almost fanatical.” Sound familiar? ‘Mauprat’ is a novel for today.

The father La Roche-Mauprat and his seven sons intimidate and frighten their neighborhood. Of course no woman would go near the estate fearing for their honor.

“Bernard, do you wish me to tell you why they thought all women are liars?”

Yes.”

It was because they were violent and tyrannical with beings weaker than themselves. Whenever one makes one’s self feared, one runs the risk of being deceived.”

However there are two sides to the Mauprat family. The other side of the family is also well-to-do, but they are pillars of the community. Our hero Bernard was born into the good side of the family, but his mother died when he was five, and he was adopted by the cruel Mauprats. Of course one of his uncles, Jean, hates the kid for being there, and Bernard later relates that “For ten years I suffered from cold, hunger, and insult; from confinement in the dungeon and from blows, according to the more or less ferocious caprices of this monster”.

Later Bernard finally escapes the clutches of the cruel Mauprats and is taken up by the honorable side of the family where he meets his second-cousin Edmee who turns out to be the love of his life. However Bernard has learned some nasty habits during his sojourn with the cruel Mauprats, and he must make amends before Edmee can like him at all. Bernard has overpowering feelings for Edmee.

Edmee never knew in what peril her honor was in that agonizing moment; I remember it with eternal remorse; but God alone will be my judge, for I triumphed, and this evil thought was the last I have felt during my life.”

Later hiding behind a bush, Bernard overhears a conversation between Edmee and the abbe:

Now I realized fully the odious part I was playing, and I had just read in the depths of Edmee’s heart, the fear and disgust I inspired in her.”

So in ‘Mauprat’, we have a devastating romance as well as an acute depiction of the social situation in France just before the Revolution.

It was the first time that I had heard of a peasant being spoken of as a man.”

As now even the United States has lost its way and fallen into a corrupt autocracy, perhaps it is time for a second French Revolution?

Stay tuned for my second article about this novel in which I will deal with the more literary qualities of George Sand and ‘Mauprat’.

 

Grade:    A

 

 

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