Pamela By Samual Richardson Essay, Research Paper
Samuel Richardson writes in the Preface of Pamela; Or Virtue Rewarded that the novel?s main purpose lies in its ability ?to give practical examples, worthy to be followed in the most critical and affecting cases, by the virgin, the bride, and the wife? (Richardson, 31). I would argue that underneath Richardson?s seemingly innocent novel of moral instruction lies a political instruction book for advancing the middle class. As a member of the middle class, Richardson wants to reduce the rights of the aristocracy and to advance the rights of the middle class. In order to advocate the promotion of the middle class, Richardson writes Pamela. In Pamela, Richardson portrays the middle class as pure virtue and the aristocracy as the epitome of amoral. Pamela, representing the middle class, proves through her virtue and mettle that she deserves the privileges of the upper class more than Mr. B., who only obtained the aristocratic rights through birth. Pamela instructs her readers on how to rise in social status by describing her personal journey from servant to aristocrat. By rebelling against the aristocracy?s unrighteous behavior, Pamela gains the admiration of Mr. B. and a position in society. Through Pamela, Richardson demonstrates that rebelling against the aristocrats proves both virtuous and rewarding.
In Letter XI, Pamela describes to her parents the situation in the summerhouse where Mr. B. forces sexual advances upon Pamela. After Mr. B. forces several kisses onto Pamela, she cries, ?I won?t stay? (55). Mr. B. then asks, ?Do you know whom you speak to?? (55). Pamela replies that yes, she does know to whom she speaks, and she will step out of her social class through her speech because he stepped out of his social class when he forced his kisses on her.
In the summerhouse scene, Pamela uses language in order to place herself in a higher social class. While still keeping the language of obedience to her master, she places herself on a higher class level (one based on morals) when she announces to Mr. B, ?you have lessened the distance fortune has made between us, by demeaning yourself, to be so free to a poor servant girl. Yet, sir, I will be so bold as to say, I am honest, though poor: And if you were a prince, I would not be otherwise than honest? (55). Pamela demeans the aristocrats and promotes the middle class by placing more value on her virtue than on his birth. Through language, Pamela creates a new social class, one based on individual merit and not inheritance.
In the conversation between Pamela and Mr. B., language proves the means for the middle class to gain the social and political rights they deserve. In order for the middle class to gain respect and position, Richardson shows that they must rebel against the social rules of the aristocracy. Pamela challenges social custom when she boldly speaks out against the injustice of her master. Her rebellious language eliminates the class distinction between herself and her master and places her on the same level as Mr. B.
Pamela?s elimination of class in her speech allows Mr. B. to see Pamela as an equal, which later enables him to justify his marriage to her, the poor servant-girl.
The title of the novel states, ?virtue rewarded.? Critic Margaret Doody explains that the virtue ?that is rewarded is in large measure the virtue of rebellion? (Doody, 9). Richardson uses the novel to show that the middle class can gain social and political promotion through rebellion.
In the novel Pamela, Richardson equates the middle class with honor and virtue and the aristocrats with wickedness and immorality in order to pursue his political beliefs. As one of the world?s most popular novels ever written, Pamela sets the precursor for the French Revolutionary War, which eventually leads to a class system based on merit and not birth.