Nineteenth Century French Studies 31.3&4 (2003) 226-236
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Indiana and Madame Bovary:
John T. Booker
In his book, Rereading, Matei Calinescu uses the felicitous term "haunting" to evoke an experience that is no doubt familiar to most readers: "there are texts that haunt other texts," he observes, "in the sense that they appear in them as expected or unexpected visitors and even, one might say, as phantoms or specters, if such notions could be freed of their sinister connotations" (xi). Richly metaphorical, Calinescu's phrasing alludes, not to something that exists in either work by itself, but to a perception that occurs when the two come together in the mind of a reader. 1 The relative dates of the texts are of little import, Calinescu adds: it is the one that an individual knows first or best that will seem effectively to "haunt" the other. Roland Barthes, in one of his provocative musings, voiced a similar notion when he confessed that, for him, "l'œuvre de référence" (59) was invariably that of Proust, to the extent that, while perusing something by Stendhal or Flaubert, for example, he might have the unexpected impression of suddenly "finding" Proust (58-59). George Sand's Indiana (1832) and Flaubert's Madame Bovary (1857) offer an intriguing illustration of such a "souvenir circulaire" (Barthes 59) or "circular haunting" (Calinescu xi). Whether one discovers them in the order of their publication or comes to the earlier novel only after the much more famous one, striking textual echoes in key sequences may very well bring the two together in the reader's mind.
The sequences in question both lead toward scenes of seduction, although the actual outcomes are quite different. Emma Bovary is in fact seduced by Rodolphe Boulanger, at a time when she is especially vulnerable. The end of a platonic relationship with Léon leaves her all the more sensitive to what she sees as the dreary, sterile nature of her everyday life. Rodolphe, "de tempérament brutal et d'intelligence perspicace" (1:167), immediately sizes up the situation: [End Page 226] "Pauvre petite femme! Ça baille après l'amour, comme une carpe après l'eau sur une table de cuisine" (1:167). Sure that he can have Emma, his only concern is for what one might call, in today's military parlance, an "exit strategy": "mais comment s'en débarrasser ensuite?" (1:167). The crude, dehumanizing tone of this monologue establishes a frame of reference against which the reader can subsequently appreciate (and judge) the finely crafted language that Rodolphe brings to bear on Emma during the comices agricoles. When he reappears after a strategic absence of six weeks, he does not have to wait much longer: once Emma has been able to procure the proper riding costume - an amazone 2 - the two set off on horseback for the forest where she will succumb to his advances.
In Indiana, the sequence of events unfolds at Paris (chs. 5-6), in the apartments of Madame de Carjaval, the heroine's aunt. Married to the brutish Colonel Delmare, Indiana has been introduced at a ball to an attractive young nobleman, Raymon de Ramière. 3 The two meet again a few nights later in Madame de Carjaval's salon, where in spite of the stultifying atmosphere Raymon manages to convey his feelings to Indiana, who promptly falls under the spell of his charm. Raised by a "père bizarre et violent" (68), Indiana has grown up starved for affection, clinging to a dream: "Un jour viendra où tout sera changé dans ma vie [. . .], où l'on m'aimera, où je donnerai tout mon cœur à celui qui me donnera le sien; en attendant, souffrons; taisons-nous, et gardons notre amour pour récompense à qui me délivrera" (69). Later passages will confirm what this one already suggests, that Indiana, like Emma Bovary, has what Raymon comes to call, derisively, a "tête romanesque" (217). A short time in the presence of M. de Ramière is enough to make Indiana...