Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Book Review: Pamela by Samuel Richardson
One of the most spectacular successes of the flourishing literary marketplace of eighteenth-century London, Pamela also marked a defining moment in the emergence of the modern novel. In the words of one contemporary, it divided the world "into two different Parties, Pamelists and Anti-pamelists," even eclipsing the sensational factional politics of the day. Preached for its morality, and denounced as pornography in disguise, it vividly describes a young servant's long resistance to the attempts of her predatory master to seduce her. Written in the voice of its low-born heroine, Pamela is not only a work of pioneering psychological complexity, but also a compelling and provocative study of power and its abuse.
Based on the original text of 1740, from which Richardson later retreated in a series of defensive revisions, this edition makes available the version of Pamela that aroused such widespread controversy on its first appearance. (Image and synosis from Amazon)
From a modern perspective, the plot of this book is very interesting. A poor girl serves as a maid for a rich woman who dies, leaving the girl subject to the lust of the rich woman's son. The girl, Pamela, was raised to value for virtue over life itself so chaos ensues when Mr. B, whom she commonly refers to as her master, attempts to seduce her.
Pamela's 'master' even smuggles her to a one of his other estates in order to have his way with her away from anyone who would stop him.
I won't spoil how it turns out for Pamela.
While the book drags in places, as expected from a book first written in 1740, it still maintained my interest because of the psychological aspect. The book is written in the epistalary form (written in letters mostly from Pamela to her parents), which gives the reader an insight to Pamela's private thoughts and feelings. Because of the intimate nature of the letters, I was able to imagine myself in Pamela's position and empathize with her. I found myself hoping Mr. B would leave her alone and cheering Pamela on in her escape attempts.
Besides the psychological aspect of reading Pamela's thoughts and feelings, I often compared her situation to the nature of our society today. Pamela's predicament would not have been possible today, unless she was kidnapped... but then the police would have gotten involved and found her. Pamela was on her own when Mr. B kidnapped her, even her parents were helpless in saving her. It was also interesting to observe Pamela's beliefs about the importance of her virtue in comparison to everything else. Pamela said many times that she would rather be killed than seduced. Also, her seduction would always be own fault rather than Mr. B.'s, which is directly in contrast to how we view rape today. It is not the victim's fault today. This is an interesting concept compared to how we think today.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars