1/17/2020 0 Comments
Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded - Sexuality and the Morally Didactic Novel We have difficulties as a modern audience appreciating the social anxieties reflected in Pamela, especially those surrounding morality and valuation of individuals within the social framework. The radical stance of even using phrases such as virtue and 'fortune' to denote Pamela's virginity are themselves loaded with a questioning of the social stratification in which she resides. The term 'Fortune' is perhaps the most playful but problematic. In it the issue of the commodification of Pamela's virginity is implicated, while at the same time gaining its authority within the framework of the novel through a Protestant ethic of internal individual worth apart from social stratification. Complicating this issue of commodification is the range of Marxist or Weberian readings of the novel that place it within a conflict between the working and aristocratic classes. Pamela is explicitly placing value in her 'protestant ethic' rather than her social standing, it being "more pride to [her] that [she] come of such honest parents, than if [she] had been born a lady" (Pamela 48) and in the same letter looking disparagingly on her fellow 'servants.' My analysis will take as central the moral issues in Pamela, but this is done with a cognizance that how we reflect on Pamela's morality is also closely related to how we read the economic and social aspects of the novel. There have been many works written in response to Pamela, some attacking the eroticism of the novel and others the social deconstruction it implies; however, the most emphatic is likely to be the Marquis de Sade's literary response in Justine (1791) and Juliette (1797). As we've already seen in "Fantomina," the erotic novel is not something new to the 18th century, and examples such as John Cleland's Fanny Hill (1748) provide explicit materials to demonstrate that the pornography and sadism of the day were as explicit as our own. As Shamela illustrates, this erotic aspect of Pamela cannot be overlooked, especially with the physicality of aspects of the letter writing and the reader's 'view' of Pamela's body through this. David Evans describes this as the prurience of its pre-occupation with sex disguised as moral guidance, and the travesty of Christian morality involved in showing 'virtue rewarded' to mean materially rewarded in this life, not spiritually in the next one.