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Since its publication in 1884, critics have persistently debated the topic of agency in Leopoldo Alas' novel La Regenta. To some the novel's characters seem incredibly rational and endowed with heroic moral responsibility, while to others they provide evidence of social constructivism, the result of the author's engagement with French nationalism. A review of these debates over time shows patterns that fluctuate according to ideological positions that transcend rather than simply reflect the novel's biases. For the novel to continue to be a forum for debate, however, critics may have to move beyond these debates as they are usually framed and engage in a more theoretical discussion of social agency in order to arrive at a more precise conception of how social identity is attained.