Communities in Conflict: Sand's Human Comedy

By Powell, David A. | The Romanic Review, May-November 2005 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Communities in Conflict: Sand's Human Comedy


Powell, David A., The Romanic Review


Sociologists define a community as any group of people that perceives itself as distinct from other groups, and which is perceived by the outside world as distinct. Groups establish community solidarity in opposition to other groups, defining themselves for the most part through confrontation. The central components of such cohesion and differentiation are language and culture, morality, and sociopolitical structures. (1)

The very structure of language legitimizes the dichotomy of insiders and outsiders. At one end of the linguistic scale, for example, minimal pairs demonstrate the fundamentals of meaning as it is conveyed through phonological contrast; thus contrast, or phonemic conflict, represents meaning. Similarly, and on the other end of the spectrum, the job of the literary critic must not fail to examine those aspects of group conflict that reveal themselves in an author's use of language. Analytical reading emerges, in part, from an assessment of word choice, which assumes the rejection of alternatives. The sort of literary analysis that seeks to discover sociolinguistic realities in literary texts undertakes to reveal disparity, diversity, and conflict as they manifest themselves in generic and stylistic forms. Occasionally these characteristics conceal, on the contrary, unity and coherence. (2)

Besides linguistic choices, human behavior persistently demonstrates the tendency to define by contrast, as evidenced by the routine practice of stereotypes and prejudices. Labeling the other facilitates group identity, thus specifying who or what we are not (Dennen 13). It can be said, then, that the phenomenon of ethnocentrism is based largely on ingroup/outgroup differentiation. As Claudie Bernard points out, democracy no longer allows for reciprocal action between men since the democratic individual is identical to himself but not to others. Associations, on the other hand, where the biological family has been replaced by the institutional family, allow for mutual action. Thus the creation of elective families, as Anne-Marie Baron suggests, permits a narcissistic construct wherein people can define their own relationships according to desires rather than their needs.

A study of the interrelation between group identity and stylistics will prove useful in classifying George Sand's communities. I propose to outline selected communities that typically inhabit Sand's universe, taking into consideration their constitution, their "enemies," and the conflicts that at once divide and unite them. I will then analyze the stylistic elements that Sand uses to define each community, and then examine whether such identifying elements suffice to equate Sand's group identity with conflict.

Reading through Sand's fictional works, a variety of communities identify themselves in conflict against other groups they consider rivals: national identity, especially French versus Italian; class divisions, e.g., aristocrat versus bourgeois, bourgeois versus paysan (in rare instances, aristocrat versus paysan); geographic contrasts, specifically provincial (and more often than not Berrichon) versus Parisian; professional distinctions, in particular artists versus craftsmen; industrialist versus what today we would call environmentalist; political adherence, e.g., republican versus royalist, Napoleonist versus republican, etc.; gender conflicts; and so on. Fundamentally a study in stylistics, this article seeks to elucidate Sand's use of negative identification to posit an essentially positive world. In so doing, Sand does not deny or erase negative social constructs; rather, she fashions a diverse society through linguistic devices that contrast, confront, and finally complement the very society they define.

A Variation on Romantic Dichotomies

Two conflicts that Sand inherits from a post-Napoleonic ethos are the nationalism of French versus non-French on the one hand, and the mixing of social classes on the other.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Communities in Conflict: Sand's Human Comedy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?