Pamela, also know in literature as Virtue Rewarded, is a 1740 novel written by Samuel Richardson. It is, in fact, an epistolary novel, meaning it is written in the form of a letter or a diary. The novel is also considered to be a conduct book or a book that teaches the readers, especially the young audience, of the social norms of the community. It is often argued that Pamela is the first English novel—a pioneer in the novel genre, As such, it has received a lot of commercial success in the 18th and even the 19th century.
Pamela is written in two volumes and tells the story of a beautiful, smart, feminine, and religious 15 year old servant girl, as she is seduced and almost raped by the rich and noble Mr. B—the son of her late mistress. Pamela, however, doesn’t respond to Mr. B’s sexual advances, and he decides to reward her virtuous nature by asking her hand in marriage. In the end, Pamela and Mr. B fall in love and marry each-other. Some readers criticize Richardson for condoning abusive behavior towards women and making Pamela fall in love with the man who almost rapes her.
Pamela covers a variety of social themes such as the social classes of English society, the importance of chastity, virtue and femininity, religion, a bit of feminism, and of course love and marriage. As a servant girl about to marry a nobleman, Pamela wishes to be accepted into the aristocracy. Through her character, Richardson explains to the readers how the middle class wanted to mingle with the higher class in order to gain social acceptance. By the end of the novel, Pamela with her youth, beauty, intelligence, and virtue has managed to enamor both the middle class and the nobility.
However, many readers ask the question, what would have happened with Pamela if she wasn’t considered beautiful, pious, or virtuous? Would society still accept her? Pamela was written in a time when feminism was beginning to spread all over Europe. Women wanted to prove that they were capable of having an opinion, and they began to fight for their rights and their independence. Thus we have the two unanswered questions...
(The entire section is 554 words.)