Morally Boring and Mildly Enraging

When I first read through the Pamela excerpt I was . . . enraged, flabbergasted, and frustrated with Pamela’s character. Pamela proved herself to be a weak character who could not stand up for herself and allowed herself to be kept hostage for months. The only reprieve I received from her weakness was her attempt to escape, which she could not even complete and literally fell into failure.

Upon realizing how frustrated I was with Pamela, I realized my rage was (somewhat) misplaced. I knew I should have been angry with Mr. B for attempting to rape a fifteen year old girl and moreover for keeping her hostage for months. Not only is he a despicable character for locking this girl away for any period of time, but even more reprehensible for using a false pretense to initially lure her into the carriage (thinking she would be taken to her family’s home). This kind of falsehood puts him into the same category as Judas and Brutus—bastard liars.

The relationship between the two is an odd one, mostly because Pamela seems to develop Stockholm syndrome with Mr. B (even though he is not physically her captor much of the time). Her feelings for him, however, are not totally surprising when Pamela finally does admit her feelings for him. She writes about her keeper from the beginning and mentions him in nearly every letter she writes to her parents. If Pamela’s feelings for Mr. B are not known even to herself, there are traces of it that the reader may follow from her initial letter home. The way the pair “falls in love” is truly one for the record books, or amongst a kidnapper/pedophile’s dream.

The whole story is bizarre. In discussing it with a co-worker he said the story was better viewed in the light of satire. Reviewing the story mentally, and given the weakness of the character, the story is better viewed as a satire. While Dr. Howe said in class that Richardson attempted to make Pamela a character without flaw, he does so to a fault which in turn makes her nearly a joke.

I am inclined to believe my co-worker is correct. Mostly because it makes Pamela a much more likable character if she is not meant to be taken seriously and meant to make light of totally moral characters. Is there a happy medium between the pious Pamela and harlot Roxana?

3 thoughts on “Morally Boring and Mildly Enraging

  1. I have the same feeling, find the book boring, and hard to agree with the world Richardson tries to form. It’s a weird story indeed, especially with a view of today’s law and society. And I like the idea of “happy medium”, which reminds me about steak. Rarely would people prefer the extreme of “raw Roxana” or “overcooked Pamela”, around medium seems like a more comfortable choice.

  2. I can definitely see how a modern reader would find Pamela weak and frustrating; however, don’t forget that this is a story about a young female domestic servant in 18th century England, who is bound to her employer (and a political power, and a wealthy man, and…) in very specific, material ways. In what ways might we see Pamela as strong as well as weak? As both rebellious and conventional? What does the telling of this particular story tell us about power or gender in the 18th century?

  3. The most frustrated thing for me was the fact that I am reading this novel in the first person. So, I am almost being her!
    However, I never read her as a weak person. The fact that she is working hard, patient and knows the rules make her stronger than other girls at her age. To me she was strong because she staid in that house. It might be the Stockholm syndrome or it was her way to say I can stay, work and keep calm. I am different. Personally my strength is to find another place, and let go. But, that is not the only way to stay strong.

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