Control and Power from Acting Weak: An Analysis of Samuel Richardson's Pamela
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The marriage between Mr. B and Pamela, in Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, has often puzzled readers because of the perplexing nature and history; Pamela is suggested as being in a constant state of anguish and Mr. B is argued to have “the pleasure of torturing [Pamela]” and, yet, all is ignored and forgiven ending in matrimony (Golden 10). Some suggest it is a companionate marriage due to Mr. B’s eventual reformation and Pamela’s developing love for him, while even more readers see it as a relationship arranged by Mr. B and his forty-eight rules dictating Pamela’s entire character after marriage. Perhaps, though, the readers overlook the complexity of Pamela’s character, specifically her involvement in those marriage negotiations while maintaining an appearance of passivity. Pamela displays an adolescent reliance on other characters, both before and during Mr. B’s initial advances, that allows her to embody a childlike weakness. As Pamela realizes the problematic positions of herself as a servant, her parents as distant and incapable of helping, and Mrs. Jervis’s servitude to Mr. B, she discovers an independency and a paradoxical power through acting weak during trials she endures. She displays clear mental and physical strength through her endurance and her attempts at escape, yet still portrays weakness during situations with Mr. B and Mrs. Jewkes with crying, fainting, and child-like pleading to suggest a manipulation of portraying virtue that eventually leads to Mr. B’s reformation. Mr. B’s reformation and the proposal of marriage demonstrates Pamela’s power; she gains a position to bargain from and arranges the marriage to achieve goals beneficial to her family and herself. Though her initial weakness seems genuine, Pamela’s sub...
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...rotective of her. She, also through the marriage, arranges the rising of her family’s financial state and has power over Mr. B through her passivity. Though many readers see the marriage as a horrible triumphant of Mr. B, that he is able to torment her and gain her love, Pamela is willing within the marriage for personal and financial gain.
Dussinger, John A. “What Pamela Knew: An Interpretation”. The Journal of English and Germanic Philology. Vol. 69, No. 3. 377-393. University of Illinois. 1970. Web. Accessed December 2, 2013.
Golden, Morris. Richardson’s Characters. University of Michigan.1963. Print.
Richardson, Samuel. Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded. 1740. Ed. Thomas Keymer and Alice Wakely. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. Print.
Wolff, Cynthia Griffin. Samuel Richardson and the Eighteenth-Century Puritan Character. Connecticut: Archon Book, 1972. Print