As much as I struggled to read Pamela reading Shamela and Anti-Pamela was not that enjoyable either. First of all both stories were written to warn young men of conniving maid-servants who would extort them for money. It totally ignores the abusive relationship, the rape that happens, the rape culture and in fact the authors of Shamela and Anti-Pamela almost seem to be encouraging rape culture. They take the scenes where Mr. B- assaulted Pamela and turn it around so it was Pamela’s idea in the first place. I have read and watched too much about women getting assaulted to just ignore it and be like “Oh, she must have encouraged it” because that is rape culture. Clearly Pamela was bringing that on herself because she was secretly seducing Mr. B- this whole time. It can’t be the man’s fault because in this society and time period it was never the upper class man’s fault.
I laughed at some parts but overall I was angry and disgusted. Not that I really liked Pamela either because it too seemed to be encouraging rape culture by saying Pamela’s reward for defending herself was marrying the man who was assaulting her. However, I feel like Pamela was sending a much different message than Anti-Pamela or Shamela was sending. The story of Shamela basically said Pamela was a farce and it really was a story about a girl who seduced Mr. B- for his money and was sleeping with Parson Williams on the side. It made it out to be Pamela’s fault and so all the sexual assault that went on in Pamela wasn’t real and in fact she was encouraging it because she wanted Mr. B-‘s money. Anti-Pamela is the story of a girl who goes around sleeping with various men for money basically the opposite of the virtuous Pamela but all in all it sending the message that all young servant girls are out to seduce young wealthy men and you must be aware of them. It glossed over all the sexual assault in the book and only addressed it as Pamela’s fault. It is very frustrating to read and not very enjoyable except for when Mr. B- was called Mr. Booby because that is funny.
I can see the critique being made by these authors but as someone in the twenty-first century I can see how these parodies perpetuate rape culture. Not that Richardson was doing a better job but at least he was acknowledging that young women do get assaulted unlike Fielding or strangely Eliza Haywood. I would have thought Haywood, as a woman, would have at least addressed that but she seems more focused on the scandalous tale of a mistress and her “adventures”. There is questions of rape in her novel “Love in Excess” but it is also questionable if those are better defined as rape fantasies. I don’t know what critique Haywood was making because it almost seems as if she is just making fun of Pamela whereas Fielding is making a specific critique which I disagree with wholeheartedly.
Both these parodies bring up really interesting questions about the times they were written in, why they were written and what they are possibly saying about love, rape, seduction, and the overall marriage game.
If I could rewrite Pamela it would be extremely different. No stories about almost rape, rape, violations of the worst kind, young ladies hiding in dressing rooms crying because they feel like no one is defending them.
Pamela would be the story of a young woman who upon finding herself in a compromising position runs away, finds herself a nicer family to work for, finds a nice man, settles down has some kids and lives happily ever after. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way because Richardson decided that he was going to write a novel about a young woman who is constantly in fear that she will lose her “virtue” and is constantly being assaulted on all sides from men who essentially just want to use her.
Pamela writes “Save then, my Innocence, good God, and preserve my Mind spotless: and happy shall I be to lay down my worthless Life, and see an End to all my Troubles and Anxieties!” Pamela could care less about her own life; all she cares about is preserving her virtue which at this point has it really been preserved? Sure she hasn’t lost her virginity in the sense that her hyman hasn’t been penetrated, she has never had physical intercourse. However, she has been assaulted many times without her consent and so at this point I honestly think some of her virtue has been lost. She resists every time and abstains from participating so she is still pure of heart but in the same way that children who have been sexually abused may never have had physical intercourse but things have been done to them so that they are no longer really that innocent about sex. It leaves marks and honestly I just cannot imagine Pamela wishing to marry this man. The things he says about her and the way he treats her; he kidnapped her! Instead of letting her go he kidnaps her, makes a creepy lady watch her every move, and then calls her terrible names in letters that he writes to the creepy lady. It’s awful and yet somehow through all of this Pamela’s reward for protecting herself from sexual assault is to marry the man who is assaulting her. No wonder people wrote parodies, certainly I would and mine would involve Pamela beating the crap out of Mr. B- and then living a happy contented life with someone who wasn’t trying to rape her.
This whole protecting her virtue idea is perpetuated by her parents who when upon finding out she is safe and who kidnapped all they have to say or more accurately her father has to say is “Persist, my dear Daughter, in the same excellent Course; and we shall not envy the highest Estate, but defy them to produce such a daughter as ours.” The first thing I would do when finding out my child has been kidnapped would be to inform the authorities but in the event that I am poor and the kidnapper is rich I still would not write back “Good for you not getting raped. Surely you will be rewarded in heaven for keeping your virtue intact.” I would be concerned how they were faring and yes I would be upset if they got raped but honestly I would care more about them actually being alive then I would be by the fact that her virtue is still intact. It reminds me of Rapunzel and how mother Gothel was obsessed with Rapunzel’s hair and making sure the hair was safe. She didn’t care about Rapunzel as a person and the same goes for Pamela’s parents. Such an emphasis is placed upon her virtue and not her safety. They are fine with the fact she is kidnapped and in danger as long as she doesn’t get raped; she’ll be fine, she’ll come home, everything will be ok, but if she gets raped and loses her virtue then all hell will break loose. At least this is how I feel about what is happening.
I would never want to be sexually assaulted. Nobody does. But if it happened I am not going to end my life because some sick piece of garbage decided to rape me. I know when this was written such a high emphasis was placed on a woman’s virtue but the real message it is sending is that it is ok to marry your rapist/person who assaulted you because for some sick reason that is your reward for defending yourself against them. This books gives me all the feels and I just want to protect Pamela from Mr. B-.
I first encountered Pamela last fall when I took a British Literature Survey course. I didn’t read the selected reading of Pamela and now that I have to for my novels class I am just angry. I am only 54 pages in (and I should be much farther by this point…) but I am so mad because I know how this book ends already and I can’t believe it ends that way.
This particular novel is told in epistolary style, in which a fifteen year old girl is writing letters home to her parents about her life working as a servant for her mistress. Well her mistress dies and her son, who is now Pamela’s master, decides he will keep Pamela on as a servant. That would be ok if he wasn’t secretly keeping her on because he wanted to seduce her. This is the whole premise of the novel. Mr. B- (as he is called) just wants to sleep with Pamela but Pamela wants to protect her virtue so all her letters home to her parents are about Mr. B- attempting to either rape or grope her and all her parents send back is “protect your virtue Pamela”, absolutely no concern about the fact this man is sexually assaulting her as long as her “virtue” in tact. It makes me so angry because she is young, vulnerable, and everyone knows what is happening and yet no one does anything about it because they really can’t. There is another lady/maybe servant in the house, Mrs. Jervis, who is essentially Pamela’s protector but when Pamela writes a letter home to her parents complaining about Mr. B-‘s behavior, he finds the letter and tells Pamela that he can’t have her ruining his reputation. His reputation? What about the fact he almost raped her and she barely got away then curled up in a ball and cried because she was traumatized about what happened?
What really makes me angry is the fact at the end of the book Pamela marries Mr. B-. She essentially marries the man who has been sexually assaulting her this whole time. It’s like someone knowingly marrying their rapist. It’s disgusting and yet for some Samuel Richardson (the author) thinks that this ok because her reward for protecting her virtue is marriage. Except she’s marry the very man who tried to steal her virtue. If she was marrying someone else, anyone else in my opinion, I wouldn’t have minded because at least she was getting away from Mr. B-. Instead she marries him and who knows what he is like now that he has legal access to Pamela.
I just feel so bad for Pamela because being married to the man who tried to sexually assault you for five hundred pages is not a reward.
The first thing that made me pause and write notes in the margins is the whole concept of Moll Flanders. It’s supposed to be this redemption story of sorts. Moll does all these bad things but in the end she turns her life around and God rewards her for it. Theoretically that is how it is supposed to work but not in practice. God never said if you suddenly start to live a good life I will bless you. Just because you live a godly life doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen to you and that life might just suck all the time. You aren’t going to wake up one day say sorry and suddenly life is perfect for you.
I’m not sure how I feel about the first person narrative. Obviously it is being set up as some kind of true account, that Moll Flanders really did exist and this is her account of her life. I think it lends itself to the idea that novels are more “true” and are about real people who lived during that time. However, I am not used to this style and it frustrates when fiction pretends to be nonfiction.
Sleeping with the your brother-in-law in my eyes is not necessarily incest because while you are related through marriage you aren’t related by blood. Incest to me is two people sharing a very similar genetic code sleeping together and then producing deformed children. I read a really great book over Christmas break last year called The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman. In it the main character falls in love with her husbands nephew and in the eyes of the Jewish faith they were committing incest even though they were not blood related they were still considered family. However, in the bible it does say something to the effect that if your brother dies you should marry his widow and they don’t consider that incest so I find the definition of incest in this novel interesting.
I would define this as a novel not because of it’s length but because of quickly we come to understand the character of Moll Flanders and come to feel for her. She’s reflecting back on life and I am speaking specifically of her encounter with the two brothers-her first lover and her first husband. Looking back she sees how dumb she was to believe that the eldest brother was interested in marriage and that by paying her he was turning her into a prostitute. She clearly didn’t care for the younger brother but she realized her situation and the only way out of it was to marry the younger brother. Comparing this encounter with DE and Amena in Love in Excess I can’t help but think despite Moll being naive she is smarter when it comes to the ways of love. Perhaps because this was written for a different audience or written with a different purpose. Haywood was writing to entertain whereas I think Defoe was going for a redemption story so if Moll wasn’t feeling somewhat guilty for her crimes then she wouldn’t need redemption. Haywood’s novel looks at love in a very different way than Defoe’s does.
I have not read a lot of early novels or what are defined as early novels. I have read a lot of Jane Austen but she was writing well after novels had become a thing. I would define Oroonoko by Aphra Behn as a early novella but when I compare it to Love in Excess I find myself liking Oroonoko better. I find the characters more likable and I feel emotionally in the characters in Oroonoko then I do in Love in Excess.
A brief character study of the characters in Love In Excess reveals to me that D’Elmont (abbreviated DE) is a man who is aware of his natural charm and uses that to his advantage. He doesn’t necessarily believe in love and when he first meets Amena he assumes just because she is nervous in his presence that she was the one who sent him the note. He’s arrogant and I don’t like him for that especially when considering the fact all he wants is to sleep with Amena and then move on. He needs to marry someone who has money and that clearly isn’t Amena. However, in the second half of the novel he feels bad for what he did to Amena so he tries to apologize but he still doesn’t want to associate himself with her because he has a new target. This new target is again a young impressionable girl who he is charge of! She is his ward and yet somehow magically he finds himself attracted to her. Of course she finds herself attracted to him because she’s vulnerable (her father just died) and he is her guardian, not to mention the fact he is charming, handsome and older than her. It is ironic and well played on the part of Haywood to start off the second half of the novel this way. In the first half of the novel DE tries to seduce a young woman and the same thing is happening in the second half.
The next character to study is DE’s wife Alivosa. Alivosa likes DE because he is rich and handsome. Social convention at the time however prevents her from publicly declaring her attraction to DE, so she sends him a note. DE is very arrogant and because of this the first trembling girl he sees must of course be the one that sent him the note…
This infuriates Alivosa so much so that when she finds out that DE is trying to seduce Amena, Alivosa sends her manservant to alert the family of what is happening. Now this where the structure of the novel in my opinion slightly crumbles. Up to this point in the story the pace of the novel has been slow and very focused. DE is trying to seduce Amena and Alivosa is trying to prevent it all in the hopes that DE will find out it was her not Amena who sent the note. As soon as the drama with Amena almost being seduced and DE finding out who actually sent the note times flies very quickly. The next thing I know as a reader DE and Alivosa are getting married and Amena has been sent off to a convent to escape public shame and scandal. The first 82 pages of the novel are pretty steady and then the last page covers an extensive amount of time just so we can get to the second half. I like proper pacing in my novels and when people mess with the timeline it throws me off.
A theme I noticed in the first half was that love was a game for all the characters except Amena. Amena reminds me of myself a little in that I have standards and while I want to stick to them I find myself gravitating toward guys I know aren’t good for me. Amena knew letting DE seduce her was wrong and she struggled with it, but her little conniving servant Anaret (the names get very confusing) convinced her it was a good thing just like Juliet’s nursemaid in Romeo and Juliet did. Now she is disgraced and has to go live in a convent…
After DE couldn’t seduce Amena he realized that Alivosa was willing to marry him and she had lots of money so why not? I don’t think Alivosa loves DE I think she sees him as a nice trophy husband, so I question why they are getting married in the first place. It’s all a very interesting social commentary on love and I can see where the critics are coming from. Granted most of these critics are men and they think that by debasing Haywood and claiming that she is prostituting herself by writing about love then they don’t have to feel threatened by a popular female author. Pope’s comments reminds me of Swift’s poem a Lady’s Dressing Room. These men are threatened by a woman expressing herself and I love that Haywood’s response to all this is to just publish another romance.
All the characters in this novel make me angry but it could be because I am looking at this novel as a 21st century woman and Haywood was writing it as a 18th century woman?
The 2017 fall semester is the start of my professional year as they call it in the education department. If all goes well and I pass all my classes I will be student teaching next spring. It is exciting and terrifying at the same time but after 4 years of college (this will be my fourth year) I am ready and done.
This fall I am taking several classes and two of them are Methods and Novels. If you are in either of those classes and are trying to read my blog posts just look at the categories tab on the right of the screen and look for Novels or Methods. If you aren’t in any of my classes and simply follow my blog because you enjoy what I have to say you don’t have to worry about that at all. Please feel free to explore any of the categories as I try my hardest to update the book reviews category as I read the books.