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.
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?
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.
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!!]
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.
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?
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:
- 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.)
- The Master will give Pamela 500 guineas. (Pamela writes that she has no interest in money, because God.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.