Provide your commentary on letter III from Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. Refer to specific themes expressed and point out specific lines to elaborate on the discussion of the chosen themes.

In letter III of Pamela, Pamela's attempt to allay her father's fears shows the theme of class distinctions, as it is unlikely that the employer and housekeeper would concoct a plot against a young woman of higher socioeconomic stature. The letter also underscores Pamela’s naiveté and virtue, underscoring the central theme of Virtue Rewarded that is also the book's subtitle. Pamela “will die a thousand deaths, rather than be dishonest any way” or forfeit her “good name.”

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Samuel Richardson’s Pamela is generally thought to be one of the first novels written in the epistolary style. The plot is revealed entirely through the letters that Pamela herself writes. She writes to her father in letter III, trying to allay fears that he obviously outlined in his prior letters to her. The reader understands that Pamela’s father has cautioned her against her employer and the employer's housekeeper, who might want to take advantage of a girl from a lower income level. In addition to exploring the theme of class distinctions, Pamela reinforces the positives of virtue and negatives of dissolute living. For its time, it was considered extremely racy and titillating.

In letter III, Pamela assures her father about her “master's goodness” in an attempt to allay the father’s suspicions and fear. Yet it is the father who will prove correct before the novel ends. He understands the longings that a young man such as Pamela’s employer has for an attractive and unprotected young girl like Pamela. That the housekeeper is seen as potentially complicit underscores the class distinction at play. Neither the employer nor the housekeeper would have concocted a plot against a young woman of higher socio-economic stature, in all likelihood.

The letter also underscores Pamela’s naiveté when she tells her father that “I hope I shall never find him to act unworthy of his character.” She ponders the question of what her employer or master could get “by ruining such a poor young creature” as she is. She is too innocent to understand that the act itself will be his reward, as will his seeming conquest. She also mistakes good manners with virtue, when she writes,

"Sure they can't all have designs against me, because they are civil!"

She is upset by what she perceives as her parents’ mistrust of her and assures them that she will never “do anything that shall bring your grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.”

The sub-title of the novel is Virtue Rewarded, which is one of the themes seen in letter III. Pamela declares her own virtue and honesty, saying she “will die a thousand deaths, rather than be dishonest any way.” She will also never forfeit her “good name” and would sacrifice the food and shelter her employer provides if it ever came to that rather than submit to any attempts to corrupt her.

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