Pamela & Desire and Domestic Fiction-- Outline
(this includes much more evidence than I expect to be able to put in the paper)
Pamela’s character must play the role of the ideal woman while remaining realistic and believable as a lower-class woman. In creating a character that fulfills both of these roles,
Revised thesis: Pamela both pushes against contemporary notions about lower-class people and women, which are highlighted throughout the novel, and perpetuates them. I argue that in order to craft a progressive narrative, Richardson leverages Pamela’s exceptionality (specifically in reference to her gender) as her main claim to truthfulness.
In formula: Mentions of Pamela’s exceptionality as compared to other women in Pamela alongside her traditionally feminine attributes illustrate how Richardson codes moral and political traits as gendered ones. This is important because it shows that though Pamela is often talked about in terms of gender, her identity as a person is in fact in her political actions rather than her individual / gendered characteristics.
Main claims (extremely rough topic sentences) & evidence:
1. Throughout the book, upper-class characters associate lower-class femininity with negative qualities such as deviousness, weakness, etc truth NOT typically associated with femininity
a. Mr. B telling Mrs. Jervis that Pamela’s an artful hypocrite after he tries to assault her: “O the little hypocrite! said he; she has all the arts of her sex; they were born with her; and I told you awhile ago you did not know her” (36)
b. Lady Davers: O, Lady Davers! were you a man, you would doat on her, as I do. Yes, said the naughty lady, so I should, for my harlot, but not for my wife. I turned, on this, and said, Indeed your ladyship is cruel; and well may gentlemen take liberties, when ladies of honour say such things!
c. Pamela “bewitch’d” Mr. B: p. 35
2. Pamela is both traditionally feminine and the ideal woman
a. Crying, fits, subservience: feminine (ex: fit saves her from assault on p.36)
b. “Lady Darnford, at whose right-hand I sat, kissed me with a kind of rapture, and called me a sweet exemplar for all my sex.”’
c. She must appeal to the Lord to help her overcome her natural weakness: forgive your poor daughter!--I am sorry to find this trial so sore upon me; and that all the weakness of my weak sex, and tender years, who never before knew what it was to be so touched, is come upon me, and too mighty to be withstood by me. (248)
3. Yet Richardson also crafts Pamela with traditionally non-feminine characteristics and attributes them to her gender—these signify his progressive message.
a. P. 84: writing above her sex
b. Mr. B loves her for non-feminine traits: “You are possessed of an open, frank, and generous mind; and a person so lovely, that you excel all your sex, in my eyes. All these accomplishments have engaged my affection so deeply, that, as I have often said, I cannot live without you; and I would divide, with all my soul, my estate with you, to make you mine upon my own terms.”(213)
4. Mr. B himself only believes Pamela after he is given sufficient evidence of her virtue, which mimics the conflation of truth-signaling and virtue-signaling in the book as a whole.
a. Central episode: p. 230-236 when Pamela and Mr. B discuss who’s spinning tales and who’s not, talk about novels, journals, etc.
5. The book argues that women have a responsibility to protect men against their own desires, especially upper-class men, and argues that lower-class women are better at this than are upper-class women.
a. Women have this responsibility because they’re naturally more virtuous, wise: “What the deuse do we men go to school for? If our wits were equal to women's, we might spare much time and pains in our education: for nature teaches your sex, what, in a long course of labour and study, ours can hardly attain to.--But, indeed, every lady is not a Pamela.” (232)
b. And the whole will shew the base arts of designing men to gain their wicked ends; and how much it behoves the fair sex to stand upon their guard against artful contrivances, especially when riches and power conspire against innocence and a low estate. (92)
c. Lady Davers was responsible for covering up Mr. B’s illegitimate child, permitting a woman to be dishonest
d. Pamela says women should be socialized to push back against men’s desires
i. “But, dear Father and Mother, what Sort of Creatures must the Womenkind be, do you think, to give way to such Wickedness? … What a world we live in! for it is grown more a Wonder that the Men are resisted, than that the Women comply. This, I suppose, makes me such a Sawce-Box, and Boldface, and a Creature; and all because I won’t be a Sawce-Box and Boldface indeed.” (71)
6. Mr. B’s internalization of Pamela’s morality at the end of the book renders him more believable and is the fulfillment of Pamela’s civic duty as a woman
a. Mr. B: “When, said he, I tell you the truth in one instance, you may believe me in the other. I know not, I declare, beyond this lovely bosom, your sex: but that I did intend what you call the worst is most certain: and tho’ I would not too much alarm you now, I could curse my Weakness, and my Folly, which makes me own, that I love you beyond all your Sex, and cannot live without you. But if I am Master of myself, and my own Resolution, I will not attempt to force you to any thing again.” (206)
b. “But now, my dearest Pamela, that you have seen a purity on my side, as nearly imitating your own, as our sex can shew to yours”