Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 536

Richardson's novel traces an uncommon love story between a master and a servant. Pamela is a beautiful teenage maidservant, and when her mistress dies, she faces an unusual proposition. The son of the mistress, known as Mr. B, tries to seduce Pamela, but Pamela resists strongly. After kidnapping her and attempting to rape her, Mr. B again tries to convince Pamela to be with him. She again refuses. When Mr. B decides to eventually marry Pamela, she is faced with the new challenge of resisting the disapproval they receive as a mismatched couple.

Pamela embraces the following advice early in her life, emphasizing her humility and characteristic goodness:

Be sure don't let people's telling you, you are pretty, puff you up; for you did not make yourself, and so can have no praise due to you for it. It is virtue and goodness only, that make the true beauty.

Power, position, servitude, and social acceptance are examined thoroughly in this novel. Mr. B's presumption that he can take Pamela any time, in any way he pleases, is resisted. She repeatedly refuses him and cites that she would be ruined by his sexual conquest, whereas his reputation would remain untarnished. 

O how can wicked men seem so steady and untouched with such black hearts, while poor innocents stand like malefactors before them!


Well, but, Mrs. Jervis, let me ask you, if he can stoop to like such a poor girl as me, as perhaps he may, (for I have read of things almost as strange, from great men to poor damsels,) What can it be for?—He may condescend, perhaps, to think I may be good enough for his harlot; and those things don't disgrace men that ruin poor women, as the world goes.

Despite the many advances of Mr. B and discrimination from others, Pamela does not give in to pressure. She refuses to fall victim to his threatening actions even though he treats her like a piece of property.

And pray, said I, walking on, how came I to be his Property? What Right has he in me, but such as a Thief may plead to stolen Goods?


I will bear any thing you can inflict upon me with Patience, even to the laying down of my Life, to shew my Obedience to you in other Cases; but I cannot be patient, I cannot be passive, when my Virtue is at Stake!

The roles of men and women, as well as the complexities of relationships, are also clearly examined in this novel of the mid-1700s. Gender difference in society comes up time and time again in Pamela, emphasizing the varied expectations for men and women.

What the deuse do we men go to school for? If our wits were equal to women's, we might spare much time and pains in our education: for nature teaches your sex, what, in a long course of labour and study, ours can hardly attain to.

Richardson also presents moral and ethical dilemmas in his novel in relation to behavior, privilege, and expectations.

Many a man has been ashamed of his wicked attempts, when he has been repulsed, that would never have been ashamed of them, had he succeeded.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access



Critical Essays