Did you know that Randall Monroe, the guy who does xkcd, has a totally awesome new book out for his side-project What If? Because it’s hilarious and smart, and you’re reading this blog, so you seem like you might like that sort of stuff. I was lucky enough to make it to his book signing in New York! And I got to have a very brief conversation with him about how neither of us “get” chemistry as much as the other sciences, which might be why the picture below looks entirely too serious.
[Ariel says: In Ariel related news, I’ve been really sick, so I started watching the new Sailor Moon series today, and it made me feel like a kid again. I still want to be a sailor scout, even though they make no sense at all. The nail polish during the transformation scenes alone is cray.
Day 62 (Still)
You might recall last week we sat through so many pages of Lady Davers calling Pamela a whore that I had save half for this week because this was somehow the longest scene yet in Pamela. That sure doesn’t say anything about misogyny in the media.
This week we return to the scene with Lady Davers removing Pamela’s gloves and spying her wedding ring! Lady Davers abuses Pamela so much after this discovery that Pamela… eats her fan?
I was so vexed, I bit a piece of my fan out, not knowing what I did; but still I said nothing, and did nothing but flutter it, and fan myself.
I have no idea. [Ariel says: This is my favourite scene of Pamela hands down. It’s the most ridiculous form of anger expression ever. ]
Well, if we have to slog through twenty pages of Pamela and Lady Davers fighting, is there any good stuff? How about Pamela’s legendary wit we’ve been hearing about for almost 400 pages?
“If [attending] to your ladyship […] was required of me, I would most gladly do it, were I only the person you think me; but, if it be to triumph over one who has received honors, that she thinks require her to act another part, […] I must say, I cannot do it.”
Come on. If we have to sit through twenty pages of Lady Davers and Pamela at peak verbal dueling, there have to be sicker burns than last week’s “fat face!”
Pamela points out that no answer she could give Lady Davers would satisfy her: if she denies the marriage, she’ll be accused of lying, but if she admits it, she’ll be accused of falling for a sham wedding. This is one of the few times where Pamela and the readers’ interests align perfectly: both want this scene to be over already. The way Pamela tries to get away from Lady Davers, however, is… probably the worst idea?
YES, SHE REALLY DOES THAT LAST ONE. If you think that Ariel and I are occasionally unfair in our readings of the books on this blog, Lady Davers is like an even meaner BBGT:
“‘My dearest Pamela,’ – Mighty well! – ‘I hope my not coming home this night will not frighten you!’ – Vastly tender, indeed! And did it frighten you, child?” […] ‘I count every hour of this little absence for a day!’ […] One may see love is a new thing to him. Here is a very tedious time gone since he saw his deary; no less than, according to his amorous calculation, a dozen days and nights, at least! And yet TEDIOUS as it is, it is but a LITTLE absence. Well said, my good, accurate, and consistent brother.”
And a more nitpicky one.
“‘we’ – Note the significant ‘we!'”
This goes on for a while – because god forbid Richardson write something and only use it once – and eventually Pamela realizes that showing the Master’s sister a love letter from him so she’ll stop yelling at her for being involved with him wasn’t her best idea.
To be sure, I had better have kept the letter from her.
This scene continues to go on for a while, until Pamela can’t resist an “I am as much married as your ladyship!” quip, which makes things worse. Eventually, Pamela comes to the natural conclusion that the only reasonable course of action by this point is to jump out the window and run to a carriage to escape. To be fair, this is probably the only exciting scene in the novel thus far, but Pamela still isn’t really aware of how ridiculous it is. [Ariel says: I would have preferred a physical altercation, but I guess this is amusing in its own right and somehow more acceptable?]
“The creature flies like a bird!” And, indeed, Mr. Colbrand, with his huge strides, could hardly keep pace with me.
Pamela, a working class house servant, outruns Colbrand, the hired muscle. I get that Pamela is the best at everything, but… this is really not believable? This is like the 18th century equivalent of Travis dual-wielding glocks. [Ariel says: Or the equivalent of Zoey having an affinity for all the fucking elements + cats. Can’t anyone else be good at something?]
Pamela eventually gets to the fancy dinner party with the Master and their upper class friends, and the book very briefly becomes Fifty Shades of Grey. Again.
“O madam,” said [Miss Darnford], “ten times welcome! But you’ll be beat, I can tell you! For here has been Mr. B— come these two hours, and is very angry with you.”
[Ariel says: One difference I only just noticed about the Crossfire books is that Eva actually comes from money/is used to all of these fancy situations unlike Pamela and Ana. As annoying as Eva’s life is (why yes, I do live in a fabulous apartment in New York that I don’t pay for, but I have to work at a fabulous job to show everyone I can make it on my own even though I’m not making it on my own at all!) at least we don’t have to deal with her constantly feeling out of place/out of her element at fancy events.]
So why does this 18th century novel look so obviously like abusive and outdated misogyny, when this exact same “oh, the man is angry at the woman OH NO” happens in Fifty Shades and people are all over that?
Pamela explains a bit to the Master about his sister and why she’s late so that he isn’t angry at her anymore (what a guy), but, well, remember when the Master mansplained how not to spoil a good mood?
“I’ll tell you all another time; for to take up the good company’s attention now will spoil their pleasantry, and be to them, though more important to me, like the broken china you cautioned me about.”
“That’s a dear girl!” Said he. “I see my hints are not thrown away upon you.”
And that’s the end of that somehow absurdly long scene where the Master’s sister called a woman she suspected to be involved with him a whore. WELL, THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE, WOULDN’T IT? Because much like how Pamela writes and rewrites every single little thing that ever happens to her, so she must tell everyone the entire story of what happened to her. And write down everything she tells them. Which she already wrote down from when it happened to her.
I’m not making this up. Pamela retells the whole thing, and we literally read it word-for-word twice.
“I then said, ‘If [attending] to your ladyship […] was required of me, I would most gladly do it, were I only the person you think me; but, if it be to triumph over one who has received honors, that she thinks require her to act another part, […] I must say, I cannot do it.’ This quite astonished her ladyship.”
PAMELA, IT WASN’T EVEN THAT CLEVER THE FIRST TIME.
The Master listens to Pamela’s story and while he’s horrified, he knows that his sister only did this because of “her love for me, though thus oddly expressed”, which would be an understatement. Because rereading this all a second time wasn’t great enough, now we get it with commentary from the Master, and it’s totally not condescending!
“But did you wait upon her?” [The Master said.] “If you did, and knew not what belonged to your character […], I shall be very angry with you.”
Why did Pamela try so hard to get to this guy again?
Anyway, as you might imagine, retelling the entirety of the book’s longest scene takes a really long time, so we’re still going to be talking about how Lady Davers called Pamela a whore next week too. Seriously, media has a huge problem with misogyny.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you guys remember that reality show Trading Spouses, which was exactly what it sounds like? Who do you think would be more interesting? Pamela and Christian Grey, or Anastasia Steele and the Master?
[Ariel says: Omg! I should have watched that while I was home sick today. I used to do that in high school, and I’d be so soothed by the sounds of the traded spouse fighting with the other person’s spouse. Good times!]