The World of George Sand

By Natalie Datlof; Jeanne Fuchs et al. | Go to book overview

21
The Divided Self in Lélia: The Effects of Dualism on the Feminine Psyche

Wendy Ann Ryden

George Sand Lélia is a romantic study of the divided self in which the spiritual heroine unsuccessfully seeks to regain her sensual component. Through this quest for wholeness, the author explores the dualism that elevates the spiritual over the corporeal, as well as the effect of such dualism on the feminine notion of self, by exploring corresponding dichotomies in Catholicism, politicized sexuality, and art. The binaries that reflect the division of the spiritual and the physical, such as madonna/whore, angel/monster, and frigidity/sensuality, function as peculiarly female images that limit the characters' perceptions of themselves and each other. Furthermore, separation occurs not only within the self but externally in the form of the individual's alienation from nature and society. The struggle of civilization against nature, ego against others, and control versus lack of control are the external counterparts of the internal separation. Establishing this link illuminates the paradox of Lélia: Integration of the self must take place outside the self.

The connection between Lélia's plight and Catholicism reveals itself through the numerous references linking Lélia's beauty to statues of madonnas and angels. The admiration she inspires hinges on the ethereal aspect of her marble-like coldness. Her spirituality sets her above mere humans, and forms the basis of attraction for her would-be lovers, the poet Sténio and the priest Magnus. However, the same detachment that earns praise also incurs contempt under the label of frigidity. Sténio, tantalized by her spiritual beauty, is appalled at the coldness of Lélia's hands and lips. Couching his fear in religious rhetoric, he declares she must be either "an angel or a demon."1 The insane priest Magnus also defines Lélia in two mutually exclusive terms by declaring that there are in fact two Lélias: the detached, mocking, angelic being so spiritual that she challenges God, and the demonic, sensual woman that comes to tempt him in his bedchamber. While Sténio associates the demonic with Lélia's frigidity, Magnus compares it to her imagined

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