Dan Sandman

51: Pamela by Samuel Richardson

In Books, Fiction on 19/12/2014 at 12:00 pm

Pamela by Samuel RichardsonPamela (1740) consists of a long series of letters and journals, and has been praised for setting a new standard of realism in English fiction. Subtitled or Virtue Rewarded, this rather long-winded story is about a young religious teenager, and the villainous sexual pursuit of her master Mr. B. Despite being imprisoned in a locked room and mistreated by the evil Mrs. Jewkes, Pamela finds sollice through the act of writing to her beloved parents. Understandably, she begins to write down suicidal thoughts, compounded when Mr. B attempts to rape her. With great bravery, the poor and down-trodden Pamela holds on to her virginity, refusing to become the mistress of Mr. B.

To the modern reader, volume one – which is where I left this book at page 279 – is a tale of eighteenth century sexual harassment and physical abuse. The shocking actions and behaivour of Mr. B are unacceptable, whatever society they take place in. A woman, from any social background or point in history, should never be forced to suffer under the hands of a man whose pride has been wounded. And yet distressingly, a working class woman, such as Pamela, would have been commonly treated as an unequal and subordinate member of society. Mr. B is given licence, by an unjust social system, to treat his servant as a sexual commodity, buying and selling her body as he chooses. The outstanding part of Pamela’s character, is her ability to resist her tormentors and to stay true to her moral upbringing. By sticking to her principles, and fighting her oppressors though the self-affirming power of the written word, Pamela rebels against the injustice she has been forced to endure.

As I finish the first half of this rather slow moving novel, I am impressed by the methods Pamela has used to resist oppression. Like Winston Smith in nineteen eighty-four by George Orwell, Pamela has fought to keep a hidden journal, writing to maintain some form of sanity and to give herself much needed therapy. As well as this written act of defiance against her oppressive master, she has powerlessly attempted to escape from her prison. I hope that in volume two, Pamela does not succumb to the abusive courting of Mr B., and that the poor girl is reunited with her mother and father.

From what I hear, this might be wishful thinking.


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