For most of Pamela, the novel’s title character and protagonist has struggled mightily to preserve her virtue and virginity until she can marry. During the era when the book was written and takes place, Pamela, a servant, had a very limited ability to resist the advances of a member of her master’s family. The fact that she managed to remain pure until marriage was a major accomplishment. In contrast, Sally Godfrey had a sexual relationship with Mr. B that resulted in pregnancy and her subsequent move, with her child, out of England to Jamaica, where she reinvented her identity. Given Pamela’s social status, marriage to a wealthier man would have been one of her few routes to improve her situation. Although Mr. B’s personality and behavior are not very appealing, author Samuel Richardson presents Pamela’s behavior as practically motivated.
Richardson employs epistolary style as he uses letters and diaries to convey the characters’ thoughts. In reaction to the rules that her husband lays out, Pamela—who is highly literate for a young woman of her status—records her thoughts in her diary. Beyond simply restating them, however, she even elaborates the rules further, as well as comments on the value and her likely ability to comply with each of them. She emphasizes the need for flexibility:
I must be as flexible as the reed in the fable, lest, by resisting the tempest, like the oak, I be torn up by the roots.
The author implies that Pamela is strategizing the extent to which she must actually obey Mr. B’s rules, or how much she will follow the letter rather than the spirit of those commands.