Sarah, Grant, and I worked from the first thirty-one letters in Pamela in order to find supporting evidence that pertained to the themes posted on our class’s Keywords account. We focused primarily on class, with a little bit of gender and property mixed in. I found Pamela’s role in society particularly interesting, mostly because she falls in between two classes—on the one hand, she is a servant, which would place her in a lower class. She comes from an economically unstable family, and therefore has little aristocratic nature to begin with. But as she works in the house of a Lady of the higher class, she is exposed to the ways of the higher class, and probably picks certain social cues up, allowing her to better fit with the rich. However, she still has her roots, placing her in a sort of classless (meaning without a certain class title, not “unclassy”) category. She therefore embodies Homi Bhabha’s idea of “hybridity”—that no culture, and therefore person within a culture, is pure because people’s identities are molded by their surroundings, which are never homogenous, and rather, always diverse.
Pamela, in some ways, reminds me of the modern day rapper. Let’s look at someone like Jay-Z. Before he became a celebrity, he roamed the streets of Brooklyn, New York, selling drugs and being involved in gang warfare (see figure 1). But once he became famous and rich, he started dressing more sophisticated, in fine Gucci suits, among other things (see figure 2). And yet Jay-Z still doesn’t speak proper English, especially while he raps, but also in interviews. He lives his life very much in limbo between classes, much like Pamela does. He doesn’t forget his roots—he still raps about living on the streets, but he also includes lines about living in luxury, having private jets, and owning a struggling NBA team, The New Jersey Nets. Jay-Z’s role in society is an odd one, much like Pamela’s. I would never consider him to be of the lower class, because of his fame and fortune. However, calling him an aristocrat would certainly be a stretch, especially because he was not born into wealth. He embodies the idea of the “nouveau riche.” Although Pamela isn’t “nouveau riche”—at least until after she marries Mr. B—she still possesses some of the same qualities in society that the “nouveau riche” do as well.
In the realm of society, I find Homi Bhabha’s idea that there is no such thing as “purity” in class and culture to be particularly thought provoking. If class were not pure, then wouldn’t everyone be in limbo? In some instances, I would agree that class isn’t exactly pure—someone like Paris Hilton, who is certainly of a high class, does not act like the aristocrat she theoretically should be because of outside influences in society. That makes sense that culture is not pure—it is difficult to avoid outside influences, especially with the invention of print media, the television, and most importantly, the Internet. Even the richest people in the world are not of a “pure class.” While I understand that society has changed dramatically from the 18th century, when Pamela was written, I would argue that there are some cultures and classes that are pure, even though they are exceedingly rare. Let’s look at the Amish for example. They stay within their village, use no technology, and live, essentially, in a different century. Assuming that they abide by their cultural rules, they would stay pure—nothing would distract them from exactly how they are supposed to be. The problem is that most people stray somewhat from conformity, mostly because human nature generally calls for fulfillment of curiosity.
I think that ties nicely into Pamela. Even Mr. B, whom would be considered to fit into the aristocratic class, is not purely an aristocrat. He marries a woman out of his class, and abuses her—not the classiest of actions, in my opinion. So wouldn’t that put him in limbo between classes, too? Does Pamela’s role as a transcendent of class really make her unique in the novel? Because in a sense, everyone transcends societal and cultural norms in some way or another. Perhaps what sets Pamela apart, much like Jay-Z, is that she knows that she is crossing these lines, and makes conscience decisions to be her own, unique person. Both of their personalities show through based on the fact that they breech class and cultural lines, placing them into a category all their own. We should all strive for that mindset.