Samuel Richardson's Novel Pamela Essays

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Samuel Richardson's Novel "Pamela"

In his novel, Pamela, Samuel Richardson suggests something that would have been considered ludicrous at the time in which his novel was published – he proposes that men should choose their wives not for their money or social standing, but for their virtue. He then makes yet another shocking suggestion by implying that the only way in which members of the upper class can learn to be virtuous is via the lower class. That is, he suggests that the lower class must teach the upper class how to be virtuous. Richardson makes these suggestions, which would have been considered wild in the eighteenth century, by creating a story that is arguably even more ridiculous than the intimations Richardson is
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B as distinctly upper class. The most noticeable way that he makes these distinctions, besides repeatedly alluding to Pamela’s poverty and Mr. B’s wealth, is through each character’s clothing. As Casey McIntosh points out, “Clothes in Pamela function . . . as the visible emblem of social standing” (75). Pamela refers to Mr. B as being “very richly dressed,” and she constantly comments on the beautiful clothes that he wears (Richardson 222). Even when he storms out of her closet and virtually attempts to rape her, Pamela notices his “rich silk and silver Morning Gown” (63). Continually, Mr. B’s clothing is described as “rich,” and in doing this, Richardson emphasizes the fact that Mr. B is meant to symbolize all of the upper class in this text. His wardrobe is “rich,” and so is he. Conversely, when Pamela wears clothes, which are “more suitable to . . . [her] Degree” (rather than the clothes given to her by her Lady, Mr. B’s mother,) they are described as “ordinary” and “plain” (55). Furthermore, when Pamela splits her possessions into three bundles, the bundle which contains the items that she considers hers (as opposed to the bundle which contains the items her Lady gave to her and the bundle which contains the items Mr. B. gave to her) is described as “poor” (78). Pamela’s clothing (Endnote 2) is simple and
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