What are some common elements between The Portrait of a Lady and Middlemarch?

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These two works have numerous similarities. Both are novels that were written in and take place during the nineteenth century. The setting is Europe, with much of the action occurring in England. Both feature a compelling female protagonist who is a truly good person and marries fairly young. Each woman has complicated reasons for marrying, which include a distorted idea of love that ultimately leaves her disappointed and in an awkward position.

In both cases, the husbands turn out to be unworthy of their far better wives. Their disappointments form the basis of the author’s social critique of marriage as an institution that is far more advantageous for men and of conditions overall that leave women with few alternatives other than marriage. In both works, the authors are strongly critical of the hypocrisy that permeates society.

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