Social class structures were beginning to break down as common men were able to make fortunes in industry and landowners found it more and more difficult to keep the idyllic life they’d constructed alive. Women, too, were beginning to question their allotted place in society as more and more opportunities opened for them in the urban centers of the country, providing them with a means of supporting themselves and freeing themselves from the yoke of male domination. However, at the same time, these positions were not the equal rights positions of modern times, so it was often difficult to determine whether one wanted to sacrifice freedom for comfort or comfort for freedom. Rarely was it possible to attain both. All of these social and economical concerns can be found in the novels written during this time period. “The Victorian novel, with its emphasis on the realistic portrayal of social life, represented many Victorian issues in the stories of its characters” (Greenblatt, 2005). By looking at the literature of the age, one can begin to gain a sense of how ideas of gender affected the lives of Victorian men and women whether they were struggling to uphold them or struggling against them.
Issues of gender, education and sexuality were tremendous stumbling blocks over which numerous fictional characters and real Victorians had to struggle in order to maintain a respectable standing in society. Within the patriarchal society of the Christian nations, men were expected to operate according to specific rules of behavior, namely that they were to be heterosexual, virile, yet also constrained and sensible of a woman’s good name. It was all right to have intercourse with women to whom one was not married, but that woman must be of a much inferior social status and must not be allowed to cross these boundaries. In novels such as Wuthering