Of the classics I am currently reading - The Fortune, by Émile Zola, and The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper - there is not one single character I relate to. Most of the characters in The Fortune are financially greedy, politically ambitious, and just plain vile individuals. And, as of yet, I do not know the native warriors and British (or Scottish, I think) colonists in The Mohicans all that well.
Of the classics I have recently finished - Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, and Virginia Woolf's The Voyage Out - Woolf's character Rachel Vinrace is the closest I may get to push the issue.
Rachel Vinrace is a 24-year old woman who was raised and sheltered by two unmarried aunts after her mother died. Her overwhelming father is often away, and she never received a formal education. While out on a voyage to South America, a different aunt takes her under her care to quietly expose her niece to the world, with new eyes and unhindered by the opinions of others.
Unlike Rachel, I have witnessed relationships between men and women, I received a formal education, and I have not lived a sheltered life. However, what I may be able to relate to is Rachel's social eye-opener, as she experiences for the first time the discrepancies between men and women. I guess our mothers can tell us as much, but when we personally experience it ourselves, it can be quite shocking: there is a double standard!
For example, when Mr. Dalloway, a married politician, steals a passionate kiss from the unsuspecting Rachel, intimate pleasure is awakened in her, but her own guilt suppresses her immediate feelings, which is quite right and natural. However, the double standard is that Mr. Dalloway walks away without any concern for his inappropriate behavior, while Rachel carries his share of the guilt on top of her own.
When a fellow female traveler, in regards to a similar situation, says,
"I've never met a man that was fit to compare with a woman! [she cried];
they've nothing but their beastly passions and their brute strength!
We've too much self-respect; we're infinitely finer than they are,"
I laughed. (I survived high school; I know what she means.) Poor Rachel gets her first taste of the differences. Yes, there are contradictions between men and women, but there should never be double standards when it comes to self-control.
Welcome to the world, Rachel.