of governing your own life is not solely a fate for penniless women. Men might also be left to the mercy of willful parents or guardians.
It seems in this Edward and Willoughby actually share something of the same fate. Willoughby is hoping for an inheritance to make him independant...and has to jump when the mistress of Allenham tells him to, even when it means leaving the girl he has been most ardently courting.
Edward is forced to do his mother's bidding or he'll have next to nothing to live on. He must also suffer the consequences of a youthful folly and his misery is increased by his sense of honour and obligation which urges him to give up his true love.