Comparison of the Marriages Portrayed in Middlemarch and a Doll's House

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Comparison of the marriages portrayed in Middlemarch and A Doll’s House : How they foster or hinder the intellectual and spiritual growth of both husbands and wives?| Middlemarch by Georges EliotA Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen | |


Plan of the analysis:


1. Marriage between illusions and disillusions

(1) Idealisation/expectation
(a) Education
(b) Love

(2) Unveiling
(c) On the partner
(d) On the self

2. Marriage as a factor of deep changes

(1) Responsibilities
(a) Material responsibilities
(b) On the family

(2) Quest of the individuality
(c) From passivity to activity?
(d) Revision of the status in the family



André Maurois, French writer from the twentieth century used to say that “A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.” Indeed, the marriage contains its difficulties and its ordeals which spouses have to overcome every day. In literature, the theme of marriage has always been important because it questions the role of men and women in this union. It questions as well the personal changes into the couple. That is precisely one of the themes in Middlemarch by Eliot and A Doll’s House by Ibsen.

Also, we will compare the marriages portrayed in both of these works: How they foster or hinder the intellectual and spiritual growth of both husbands and wives?
We can divide our reflection in two points. Firstly, the marriage takes place among illusions and disillusions. Secondly, it is a factor of personals changes. Thanks to these two angles of view, we will observe the different evolutions into men and women from the end of the nineteenth century in these two works.

1. Marriage between illusions and disillusions

(1) Expectations

Except a real pursuit of a material security in most of the couple, we can note two main expectations about marriage according to the characters in these two works.

(a) Education
Middlemarch could be considered as a critic against the restrictions imposed by society about women. In the first chapter, we can read that women “were expected to have weak opinions”. In contrast, the character of Dorothea is shown as continuously acting against restrictions in her education. That is why she marries Casaubon. At the very beginning, Dorothea outlines her idea about marriage: “The really delightful marriage must be that where your husband was a sort of father, and could teach you even Hebrew, if you wished it.” She expects an education, she chooses an intellectual man in order to fulfil her need of education. She suffers a lack of reconnaissance. Indeed, many men in the novel are really closed-minded as regards to women and Dorothea experienced that. Regarding Mary Garth, she expresses easily this feeling: “I do like be spoken to as if I had common sense. I really often feel as if I could understand a little more than I ever hear even from young gentlemen who have been to college.” She has a free mind and she does not hide it. Maybe that is why she refuses all her suitors at the beginning of the novel.

(b) Love
If Dorothea does not really present signs of deep love towards Casaubon, we cannot say the same regarding the expectation of Rosamond and Lydgate. Admittedly, Rosamond and Lydgate are attracted each other from the very beginning. And in the case of Rosamond, even before the encounter. In fact, she already saw the good match in Lydgate thanks to many rational arguments. In spite of that, the encounter keeps a kind of romanticism and the birth of love between them is tangible: “Their eyes met with that peculiar meeting which is never arrived at by effort, but seems like a sudden divine clearance of haze.” In the Doll’s house, the relation between...
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