Pamela Tries To Kill Herself, Is Still Unintentionally Funny: Pamela Part 8

I was really hoping that today we’d learn that the Supreme Court’s decision on the Hobby Lobby case declaring that corporations are more people than women was actually part of Facebook’s social experiment to see if exposure to bad news would make people feel bad, but I guess that’s not the case. Well, we better move on to something less misogynistic and manipulative than America in the year 2014: Samuel Richardson’s Pamela.

Hm, 2/3 of the people weighing in on a case about women's rights are men HMMMMMM
Hm, 2/3 of the people weighing in on a case about women’s rights are men HMMMMMM

Days 27-30

Remember that time Pamela was left completely unattended but didn’t run away because she couldn’t think of a way away from the house other than walking right past a bull? Well, now that Pamela is under extra surveillance, she decides that now is a good time to escape. [Ariel says: For anyone who watches Orphan Black, which I suspect may be 1-2 of you – I bet the bull is Pamela’s monitor. This is a very bespoke joke, intimately crafted for a minority of readers.]

I will endeavor to get Mrs. Jewkes to go to bed without me, as she often does, while I sit locked up in my closet. […] If I can but then get out between the two bars of the window […] then I can drop upon the [plants] underneath

Pamela comes up with a plan to throw some of her clothing into the pond, so her captors will think she drowned herself, thus buying Pamela more time to get away. The bull is apparently no longer a problem. [Ariel says: The twist is that the bull was Pamela all along, but she wasn’t aware of this split personality. This joke goes out to the vast majority of readers who have seen or read Fight Club and who felt alienated by my earlier reference to Orphan Black.]

O my dear parents! Don’t be frightened when you come to read this!

After asking her parents not to be scared that she really killed herself in a letter that they will only read if she delivers it to them personally, Pamela signs off for the day, and her next account tells of her disastrous failed escape attempt.

Here I am still; and everything has been worse and worse! […] Your poor Pamela has escaped from an enemy worse than any she ever met with; an enemy she never thought of before, and was hardly able to stand against

What, did she see a chicken or something?

I know I'm not being especially fair, because there's a big difference between a bull and puppies, but this is basically how I picture Pamela's struggle with the world.
I know I’m not being especially fair, because there’s a big difference between a bull and a puppy, but this is basically how I picture Pamela’s struggle with the world.

Pamela describes how she climbed out window, made it look like she drowned, and then discovered that Mrs. Jewkes had changed the lock, so the key she got from Mr. Williams doesn’t work. Pamela desperately tries to climb over the wall instead.

The wall being old, the bricks I held by gave way [and I] received such a blow upon my head, with one of the bricks that it quite sunned me; and I broke my shins and ankle

I like how Richardson goes to such absurd lengths for us to feel bad for Pamela, that he has to give her a concussion and then keep going. “Also I broke my shins. Both of them! And my ankle!”

Pamela – surprisingly more determined to escape after breaking bones in her legs than she was when there was an animal in the relative vicinity – tries to find a ladder to climb over the wall, but has no success. Utterly defeated, things get serious as Pamela does the one thing we’ve kind of always hoped one of our main characters would do: consider killing themselves.

We're just gonna choose to believe this is what the people really wanted.
We’re just gonna choose to believe this is what the people really wanted.

O my dear, dear parents, forgive your poor child; but being then quite desperate, […] what to do, but throw myself into the pond, and so put a period to all my griefs in this world!

Pamela fantasizes about how things would totally go down if she killed herself.

My master, my angry master, will then forget his resentments, and say, “O, this is the unhappy Pamela that I have so causelessly persecuted and destroyed! Now do I see she preferred her honesty to her life”

In case you haven’t picked up on this, Pamela is super duper humble. [Ariel says: I’m just shocked and grateful that she hasn’t been writing poetry about herself again.]

I hope I shall not be the subject of ballads and elegies; but that my memory, for the sake of my dear father and mother, may quickly slide into oblivion.

Yes, Pamela. I am certain that all the poets of England will be moved to tell tales of your plight. Not that you want that, of course. You’re just the one who brought it up.

Pamela eventually decides not to kill herself, because God, and praises him for saving her from herself, although also points out that “although it’d be nice if you could deliver me from, you know, the Master” (which is a little weird in tone), once again making this 18th century novel in which a God-fearing woman Stockholm Syndrome-d into loving a man is somehow more thought-provoking than most of the 21st century books we read on this blog.

Not even suicide is safe from Pamela‘s hilarious melodrama, because we then have a scene in which the household wakes up, concludes that Pamela drowned herself and runs around the yard in a panic, while Pamela is too injured to move or call attention to herself. When they do finally find her, they are of course immediately mad at her, because Pamela must suffer more than anyone in the history of time. Mrs. Jewkes determines that since the extra man the Master sent still wasn’t enough to keep Pamela out of trouble, they better just go ahead and get the Master himself this time, because – dammit – everything they try isn’t working! [Ariel says: I’m not going to lie, I don’t understand what is happening at all anymore! What the fuck are these people trying to accomplish!!]

So unfortunately we’re not getting many more wacky antics.

We then learn that even if Pamela had escaped, it would have ultimately failed, because – like Christian Grey and Gideon Cross after him – the Master already owns everything everywhere.

She was provided with a warrant from my master (who is a justice of peace in this county as well as in the other) to get me apprehended, if I had got away

I bet if Pamela did kill herself, she’d have found that the Master also happened to be in charge of the pearly gates, because male love interests in romance novels must always own everything.

Days 31-37

The Master has an accident and nearly drowns while traveling, and we’re finally starting to get to the Stockholm Syndrome-y part of Pamela, where – like Anastasia Steele and Eva Tramell and Abby Abernathy after her – she inexplicably cares for the emotionally abusive and manipulative man in her life.

He has certainly done enough to make me hate him; but yet, when I heard his danger […] I could not in my heart forbear rejoicing for his safety; although his death would have ended my afflictions.

Although Pamela lays it on rather thick.

To be sure, I am not like other people!

We then learn that the Master has a Plan B for his “Marry Pamela off to someone else, profit somehow” strategy – the foreigner from Switzerland he sent along to watch Pamela!

By marrying me to this dreadful Colbrand, [he will then] buy me [from] him on the wedding day, for a sum of money [because] it will be my duty to obey my husband

I’m no expert on 18th century English law, but I’m pretty sure this plan is pretty not at all legal. Also, racism!

The Swiss is to go home again, with the money, to his former wife and children; for, she says, it is the custom of those people to have a wife in every nation.

Are we talking about the same Switzerland?

Switzerland: One of our racist stereotypes is having lots of wives apparently!

After a few anxious days, the Master arrives. Pamela first overhears his voice as he discusses dinner plans with the staff.

“I shall choose a boiled chicken, with butter and parsley.”

Apparently chicken is also a centuries-old romance trope?

He put on a stern and majestic air; and he can look very majestic when he pleases. “Well, perverse Pamela, ungrateful runaway,” said he.

Does this not sound almost identical to Fifty Shades of Grey? The female narrator talks about how great – but also serious! – he looks, while he chastises her? Things then get distinctly more 18th century, though.

“I thought,” said he, “When I came down, you should have sat at table with me [but you] prefer [servitude] to me, [so instead] I call you down to wait on me, while I sup, that I may have a little talk with you, and throw away as little time as possible upon you.”
“Sir,” said I, “you do me honor to wait upon you – and I never shall, I hope, forget my original [status].”

The Master and Mrs. Jewkes talk about how awful Pamela is in front of her (although for some reason he’s still going through with his plan to win Pamela’s love?). It is what you’d expect from any of the romance novels we read on the blog (melodramatic emotional abuse), as well as what you’d expect from Pamela (funny-sounding antiquated insults):

“Come, Sawcy-face, give me another glass of wine!”
[I] wept so, that he said, “I suppose I shall have some of your tears in my wine!”

This could almost be from Beautiful Disaster, except someone gets called a Sawcy-face. [Ariel says: And no one seems to have inexplicably been recruited by the FBI.] 

Because writing letters was apparently pretty big in those days, the Master gives Pamela a list of proposals:

  1. The Master will do a few things for Pamela if she can convince him that she doesn’t have a thing for Mr. Williams. (Pamela writes that she has no interest in love, because God.)
  2. The Master will give Pamela 500 guineas. (Pamela writes that she has no interest in money, because God.)
  3. The Master will give Pamela’s father a well-paying property to manage. (Pamela mixes things up a bit and writes that her parents have no interest in money, because God.)
  4. The Master will do the same thing for any of Pamela’s friends. (Pamela writes that she… doesn’t have friends, because God? I’m getting a little confused here.)
  5. The Master will buy Pamela fancy clothing and jewels of her own choosing. (Pamela writes that she has no interest in material goods, because God. You’ve probably got the gist of this. Although she does refer to her virginity as “the best jewel”, which is worth mentioning.)
  6. The Master wants Pamela to “be mistress of my person and fortune, as much as if the foolish ceremony had passed”, which is actually kind of interesting how he literally can’t propose marriage because of their class distinction. (Also Pamela says no.)

The section ends with the Master upset and perplexed that Pamela has rejected the same offer yet again.



  1. Madeline Reply

    My favorite part about that Supreme Court photo is Ruth Ginsberg looks like she’s trying to get as far away from the other judges as possible, especially after her very impassionated stance against the ruling this morning. But I can’t think too much about Hobby Lobby anymore. It’s not good for my blood pressure.

  2. Manny Reply

    Not being an American, I looked up on the internet the Hobby Lobby case… And I don’t understand… Why should a company pay for contraception?! I mean, how much does a box of pills or of condoms cost in the US? Is it so high that people must rely on their company’s insurance to cover that cost? Sorry but I don’t get it. Here (Italy) we just buy contraception (whether regular or emergency) on our own, our bosses are not involved, religion or not… I know it’s off topic but I don’t get it…

    • matthewjulius Reply

      There are a lot of seriously troubling things wrong with it, but it kind of can be condensed simply down to three things:
      1) It’s a women’s health issue and a women’s rights issue. Contraception isn’t just about getting laid, it’s about women having access to medical coverage and having the right to keep their own bodies healthy, which is historically denied them by a patriarchal society (you read this blog – surely you are familiar with the patriarchy!). One thing that you have to keep in mind is that in the American health care system, most people get 100% of their health insurance through their employer (which is a bad system, but that’s neither here nor there). I can assume that neither you nor I have ever had to regularly purchase birth control pills, Manny. We’re not intimately familiar with how expensive that is, but there are many people who are and the expectation that anyone can just afford that is out of touch with economic reality. The decision becomes even more blatantly sexist when you notice that Hobby Lobby does, however, cover an employee’s vasectomy.
      2) It’s a religious rights issue. The decision basically says that an employer’s religious rights are more important than their employee’s religious rights, and this sets a terrible legal precedent. Let’s say you need a blood transfusion, but your employer is a Jehovah’s Witness. Let’s say you need anesthetic, or any other medicine derived from pigs (there are many), but your employer is Muslim, Jewish, or Hindi. There is now a legal precedent saying that because of their religious beliefs, they don’t have to offer you insurance that will cover that. If you don’t believe me (I’m no legal expert, that’s fine), this is all in the dissenting argument:
      3) It’s an individual rights issue. Similar to #2, this sets a nasty legal precedent that corporations have more rights than individual people.

      The unfortunate reality is that the only people who don’t see an issue with this decision are white, Christian men. Which I don’t say to drill into you, Manny. You said you didn’t get it and asked a question, and that’s what one should do. The problem is that most people in these positions of social privilege decide that if they don’t understand how something is an issue, then it must not be.

      • Manny Reply

        Thanks Matthew for the explanation. Actually no, I’m not on the pill but personally I know how much it costs here, that’s why I asked if in the US it’s so expensive to go and get the pill or condoms. And surely health issues should not be tied to the employer’s religion, whatever it might be. Surely this is a very bad precedent, as you say. This is a very personal matter which shouldn’t be an employer’s business.
        Just like it’s not a doctor’s business to deny the morning-after pill to a patient (something that often happens here) just because they are anti-abortion (and even if medical evidence says it’s not abortive)…

        Isn’t there a chance that this sentence can be changed? What if the woman needs the pill for health reasons?
        This means that people must change their jobs if their employer’s beliefs go agaist their own!

      • milli Reply

        it is Hindu. Hindi is one of the most spoken language in India along 20 others..

        and by the by, Pamela( what with god and virginity are the things she prizes and the society at that time prized as well.before Charles “awesome” Darwin did what he did) sounds like a perfect nun. this what samuel beckett is palnning! insidious messages of women taking nun virtues!

    • A Reply

      To be clear, the argument is about contraception in the context of employer-provided health insurance. Birth control without insurance can really add up: Furthermore, considering that contraception can also prescribed for medical reasons or, for example, to every female that takes Accutane, it’s a very dangerous precedent for the government to allow a company to pick and choose what medical treatment they want to be provided to employees.

  3. janelovering Reply

    Okay. Here I am assuming that Pamela is using ‘broken shins and ankle’ in the archaic sense of having broken *the skin* on her shins and ankle, rather than the bones. Otherwise, girl is managing one hell of a hobble…

    • A Reply

      Oh, thank you so much for explaining this. I was wondering how she managed to not be lying in bed for weeks.

    • Savvy Reply

      I was wondering how she was going to climb a ladder if she found one with so many broken bones. Thank you for the explanation!

  4. Dana Reply

    I must admit that I actually went to Hobby Lobby a couple weeks ago. But in my defense, I had never actually heard of the store before (it’s funny; at times I am so much more politically aware than most of my peers, while other times it’s like I’m living under a rock). When my friends and I wanted to go buy some crap for our graduation caps, one of them kept insisting that Hobby Lobby was sooooo great and that she goes there for all her craft needs. Once we arrived, I do remember seeing a weirdly large amount of Christian-themed supplies there, but I assumed most craft stores were like that and I, as an irreligious person, simply was more prone to noticing that sort of stuff.

    The next morning, my mom and sister were looking through my purchases, and asked me where I went to buy them. After I answered, they just looked at me with wide eyes. “Hobby Lobby sucks,” my sister said, to my confusion, as I thought the store was relatively nice. I was then presented a brief history lesson about Hobby Lobby. After that, I texted one of my (very liberal and very feminist) friends who went to the store with me in order to notify her of this information. All she texted back was “Oh no.” When I hung out with her later that day, we suddenly realized why our other friend, who is a devout Christian, was so insistent on going to Hobby Lobby.

    ANYWAY, on a completely unrelated note, while I was on Facebook today, some girl posted a status saying, verbatim: I ACTUALLY HAVE FEELS FOR A BOOK. IT MAKES ME WANT TO HUG IT, THROW IT, RIP IT TO SHREDS AND BALL ALL OVER IT ALL AT ONCE. If you’re a woman, go get this book, like now.

    Curious, I read the comments to see what the book in question was.

    Beautiful Disaster


  5. Judy Reply

    Pamela rejects offers from Master the way Eva is currently refusing Gideon’s offer to work with him and marry him. All these books have so many similarities it’s crazy. Pamela is as much of an idiot as all the modern romances heroines and Master is the same rich, manipulative, pretty boy we see in so many romance novels today. ugg!

  6. Judy Reply

    The puppies and cat made me happy, unlike this book and Hobby Lobby,

  7. Ali Reply

    i had a super witty comment all ready, but I t drank a couple mojitos while reading this post and have now forgotten it

  8. E.H.Taylor Reply

    The Master has not only given himself complete control over Pamela’s life, but he’s tearing her self esteem down bit by bit so that when the time comes, she’ll never leave because it will be ingrained in her that she’s horrible and no one else will ever want her. Yeah, I can totally see how this is a story about romance and not one of abuse…

    I would feel sorrier for Pamela and her situation if she wasn’t basically declaring that there should be sonnets written about her.


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