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Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson

I kind of had this one coming. When I bought this, I had already heard that there were a few things about it that weren't popular opinions these days, usually for good reason. So I can't say that I wasn't expecting some instances of really unfortunate implications. I'm just not sure that I expected this. 

Oh boy, where to start with this one? Pamela is the story of a serving-girl, the eponymous Pamela, as she tries to protect her virtue against her less virtuous master. Remember, it's the 1740s. Chastity was something of a big thing back then. And to be honest, as a premise it's harmless enough. It's when we actually start reading it that the modern perspective brings up all sorts of issues that I feel I have to tackle. Firstly, there's the master. I didn't like him. It's hard to like someone when he propositions, attempts to rape and unlawfully detains a girl because she won't put out. I wouldn't necessarily mind that, and it does work in the first half. I say the first half. At the halfway point, the narrator decides that he's had a change of heart, so they get married. And she's more than okay with that. Need I explain why I find it a "jumping the shark" moment, if you will, when she's praising the great goodness of a man who has treated her abominably? Some of the other values in this book are a bit jarring as well, but that was my main niggling point. Secondly, there's Pamela herself. Don't get me wrong, she's a nice, sympathetic girl and I feel for her plight. My problem is that she's too nice, too good; at no point does she harbour any negative feelings against anyone else, despite how horrifically they treat her. There's virtuous, then there's too nice to physically exist. My final problem is the length. It's about 150 pages too long in my view. As I said, they decide to get married at about the halfway point (around page 250). Much as I don't like that scenario, it's a good place to end the novel: Pamela gets her man after working to improve him as a person. Maybe tie up some loose ends after the wedding. But no, instead we get another 250 pages of what is essentially Samuel Richardson following them whilst pointing and saying, "Hey, look at the two of them! Aren't they the most perfect couple that you have ever seen?" over and over again until I decide I can't take it anymore and knock him out. Granted, there was an interesting bit where Pamela's new sister-in-law goes a bit crazy and forces Pamela to dine with her, but that was one all too brief episode amongst the monotony of people practically singing Pamela's praises. It's probably why this took so long to finish, other than essays I had to write. But, despite the numerous and pretty huge problems that I've pointed out, I can't bring myself to dislike Pamela. Granted, I don't like it a huge deal, but it's pleasant enough. 

Overall, some major issues, but I would recommend this to anyone who is interested about the society of the time. Otherwise I would advise you to steer clear of this one. 3/5 

Next review: Henry VI Part One by William Shakespeare 

Signing off, 

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