Last week, Pamela tried to escape and failed, the Master proposed to Pamela and failed, and the Supreme Court tried to not totally fuck up a decision and failed. [Ariel says: Some members of the Supreme Court don’t understand eBay. Fucking eBay. Apparently, they still communicate with handwritten notes, Pamela style. So my faith in their decision making skills was already pretty shaky.]
I wrote a piece about that last thing for our friends over at Abstract, if you’re so inclined. It’s a rather upsetting read, sure, but my friend/editor insisted that I write something with “a couple of jokes and stuff”, so, uh, you can laugh about it too!
As for the first two things, I want to share a comment we got on our last post – from Ariel’s mom! – that sums up why everything is terrible much more succinctly than I did:
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. Ugh!
[Ariel says: In another world, my mother could have been the one to write for this blog.]
The Master is still super disappointed that Pamela rejected his most recent proposal even though absolutely nothing has changed in their relationship outside of him kidnapping her a few times.
“I can’t bear,” said he, “to speak to her myself!”
It’ll be interesting when this is all over to see whether the Master manages to take Travis’s title of “whiniest male lead“.
Because Pamela is being so difficult about this whole “being kidnapped” thing, they’ve upped her nighttime security to having not just Mrs. Jewkes share her bed with her, but also another female servant, Nan, because hers is apparently a three-person bed. [Ariel says: I actually can’t imagine a lot of non-violent punishments that are more distressing. It would be bad enough to be watched really closely by these people, but then to be forced to share a bed with not one but two of them is just plain cruel!]
Pamela commits another major sin of every present-day romance that has followed it: have the female lead constantly describe how attractive the male character is, even when she doesn’t even like him.
To be sure he is a handsome fine gentleman! What a pity his heart is not as good as his appearance! Why can’t I hate him?
Because thinking someone is really hot is the first step towards no longer thinking they’re a total asshole. (In case you forgot, this is exactly how Bared to You started.)
Mrs. Jewkes accidentally leaves out a letter from the Master because Mrs. Jewkes is really bad at her job when the plot needs her to be. He writes that he has to leave town for a day, and in his absence, Mrs. Jewkes and Pamela finally agree on something.
“We have nothing to do, but to eat our suppers betimes, and go to bed.” [Mrs. Jewkes said.]
“Ay, that’s pure,” said I.
Hint: They agree that they’re both super boring. [Ariel says: I also think like Pamela’s word choice here. “Ay, that’s pure” is going to quickly become a staple of my vocabulary.]
A few days later, Pamela writes of unspeakable horrors that happened on Sunday night. Meanwhile, Samuel Richardson does not understand how suspense works.
Mrs. Jewkes and I went up to go to bed […] We locked both doors, and saw poor Nan, and I thought, (but, oh! ’twas my abominable master, as you shall hear by and by,) sitting fast asleep, in an elbow-chair, in a dark corner of the room, with apron thrown over her head and neck.
This is probably too stupid to bother writing out why this is bad writing, so I’m just going to jump right into our favorite blog game: but what if other books were written this way?
- “This is Scabbers,” Rob said, gesturing to his pet rat (but, oh! ’twas the man who betrayed Harry’s parents to Voldemort, as you shall hear by and by). “Pathetic, isn’t he?”
- “I see dead people,” Cole said to Dr. Malcolm Crowe (but, oh! the Doctor was also dead the whole time, as you shall hear by and by).
- “My name is Tyler Durden,” Tyler said, (but, oh! ’twas a manifestation of my own split personality, as you shall hear by and by).
Writing this bad doesn’t just ruin twists, but basically storytelling in general.
- “I know lots of great games!” Said the Cat in the Hat (but, oh! ’twere actually very irresponsible games, as you shall hear by and by)
- “I am Aslan,” said the Lion (but, oh! ’twas a Christ figure, as you shall hear by and by)
[Ariel says: “I’m just regular old Norman Bates,” said the seemingly sane man (but, oh! ’twas a psychotic killer with a split personality. His mother’s personality. As you would hear by and by if you managed to stay alive.)]
But before we learn why the Master is wearing a dress – which is actually what is happening in this real book right now – Pamela has something to say.
“I am thinking, Mrs. Jewkes,” answered I, “What a sad life I live, and how hard is my lot.”
Not that I don’t agree with her, but this again??? Pamela goes on (another) rant about her (only slightly developed) situation, making (the same) legitimate points about how unfair her treatment (still) is and how insulting and selfish the Master (still) is (still). Is there something to be said for how we already know that the Master is hearing all of this, so the reader is at least enjoying some dramatic irony? Probably, but that doesn’t mean that this dramatic irony isn’t totally stupid.
The pretended Nan (O wicked, base, villainous designer! What a plot, what an unexpected plot was this!)
Not if you keep telling us! [Ariel says: No, but seriously, it was so unexpected. What a plot!]
“So, Mrs. Jewkes,” said I, “Here is my history in brief.”
If that were true this book would be over already.
Said [Mrs. Jewkes], “I hope you have no writing tonight. […] I wonder what you can find to write about so much!”
Samuel Richards continues to try to foreshadow the twist with the disguised Master, even though he already told us what it is.
I said, “Well, I must go to the two closets, ever since an affair of the closet at the other house, though he is so far off.”
“Where are the [door] keys? Though,” said I, “I am not so much afraid tonight.”
This is suspense in the same way seeing a character in a horror movie go into a barn or open a closet is suspense.
With my underclothes in my hand, all undressed; [I] passed by the poor sleeping [Nan]. But, oh! little did I think it was my wicked, wicked master, in a gown and petticoat of hers
Mrs. Jewkes and Nan were both drinking earlier (you can imagine how that went over with Pamela) and they decide to leave Nan passed out drunk in her chair until she comes to bed. Of course, we know it’s not Nan, so we’re not so much thinking about when the Master will sneak into bed with Pamela as we are wondering why he is seriously wearing a nightgown right now. The Master gradually crawls into bed, and it doesn’t take long before the gig is up.
He kissed me with frightful vehemence
Well, why did he have to disguise himself in a women’s nightgown for that? He just does that whenever he feels like it anyway.
his voice broke upon me like a clap of thunder. “Now, Pamela,” said he, “is the dreadful time of reckoning come, that I have threatened. […] You see now you are in my power! You cannot get away from me, not help yourself”
This novel is commonly found on the syllabi of college English courses because academia believes there is value in its continued study.
The book counters its sexist plot with more sexist plot as Pamela does the only thing a woman could conceivably do in such a situation: faint. When she comes to, the scene has conveniently ended, and now the Master is acting excessively nicely towards Pamela!
He pressed my hand very tenderly, and went out. What a change does this show! O may it be lasting!
“You begin to look well again: I am glad of it. You little slut, how did you frighten me on Sunday night.”
Yes, he really does appear to be a changed man.
The Master promises that he will control “my weakness” better and “will not attempt to force [Pamela] to anything again”. Except, of course, to stay with him until she loves him.
“If you’ll send me out of your way, to my poor parents; that is all I beg.”
“‘Tis a folly to talk of it,” said he. “You must not, shall not go!”
The Master makes a deal with Pamela, that if she doesn’t keep talking about escape all the damn time, he’ll give her a little more leniency in her confinement. Pamela agrees, because she is happy to “show obedience to [his] commands […] which I can do, with innocence”, which is maybe the stupidest reason for doing anything ever. Pamela, I’m starting to think you’re way too into the 18th century class system.
Also, the Master wore a women’s nightgown in order to sneak into Pamela’s bed and that is seriously what happened in this book.