Mauprat was adapted by Jean Epstein from a novel of the famous novelist George Sand. Like many of Sand’s novels, Mauprat borrows from various fictional genres- the Gothic novel, chivalric romance, the Bildungsroman, detective fiction, and the historical novel. Luis Buñuel was assistant director on this film, and was Buñuel’s first film credit.
Plot Summary of the Novel
The novel’s plot has been called a plot of female socialization, in which the hero is taught by the heroine how to live peacefully in society. Mauprat resembles the fairy tale “Beauty and the beast.” As this would suggest, the novel is a romance. However, Sand resists the immediate happy ending of marriage between the two main characters in favor of a more gradual story of education, including a reappraisal of the passive female role in courtship and marriage. Sand also calls into question Rousseau’s ideal version of the female education as described in his novelÉmile, namely, training women for domesticity and the home.
The novel, set before the French Revolution, depicts the coming of age of a nobleman named Bernard Mauprat. The story is narrated by the old Bernard in his country home many years later, as told to a nameless young male visitor. Bernard recounts how, raised by a violent gang of his feudal kinsmen after the death of his mother, he becomes a brutalized “enfant sauvage.” When his cousin Edmée is held captive by Bernard’s “family”, he helps her escape, but elicits a promise of marriage from her by threatening rape. Thus begins the long courtship of Bernard and Edmée. The novel ends with a trial similar to the one in Stendhal’s The Red and the Black.
During the period Sand wrote the novel, she was gradually becoming more interested in the problem of political equality in society and in the views of socialist thinkers such as Pierre Leroux. Mauprat depicts a new type of literary figure, the peasant visionary Patience. Part of the novel takes place during the American Revolutionary War.
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