In our presentation, Chris, Daniel and I discussed Pamela’s identity. The Ingrassia quote that we used articulates Pamela’s “imaginative and textual creation of self” that “represents her unwavering investment in her virtue” (313). Her identity is fundamentally a construct that gives her power in her relationship with B. The discussion that this quote generated was interesting and we discussed many things, ranging from Pamela’s agency to her economic motivation, and Eliza even compared her relationship with B to Chris Brown and Rihanna (which Chris elaborated on in his blog post). However, I would like to diverge from that discussion because, during our presentation, I found myself wondering about Mr. B. Many of our discussions have revolved around Pamela. After all, the novel is named after her. But I wanted to focus on B’s identity. We’ve discussed his motivation in pursuing Pamela, his attraction to her, his questionable transformation. Yet we haven’t discussed his identity.
Pamela remains a static character throughout the text. Her identity is unmistakably linked with her sexuality, whether it is in protecting it through abstinence or securing it through marriage. Men’s sexual excursions were much more accepted and even expected. Therefore, B’s identity isn’t entrenched in his sexuality. I would argue that Richardson, in writing this text, reinforces gender roles and boundaries. Although Pamela is a “virtuous” character, her virtue is simply her sexuality. Had she slept with B, it wouldn’t matter that she treated the other servants nicely and had Christ-like qualities in converting people. She would have been devalued completely because her primary power lies in her sexuality, whether in withholding it or giving it. However, she remains a very flat character. B, on the other hand, undergoes a radical transformation.
It is this transformation that I would like to focus on. It very much reminded me of the end scene of Beauty and the Beast, when the Beast becomes a human.
There are lots of flashing sparks and lights shooting out of his hands and feet.
But Belle, like Pamela, has always been good. She is exactly the same, but the man (B) undergoes a radical transformation.
Pamela is presented as a reactionary character, and I would argue that she never actually learns any skills in order to manipulate her surroundings. Rather, she relies on her one magic trick-her virtue.
But B. uses many different angles and approaches in order to win her favor, and regardless of whether or not he is sincere, he does ultimately succeed. B is constantly pursuing, and is action-driven.
The man undergoes a radical transformation and the woman remains static.
However, although this transformation is interesting, it is important to note that what transforms B is what ultimately allured him. He is transformed by his desire for Pamela.
But I would argue that this desire is ultimately B’s weakness. His weakness lies in his inability to resist desire and his vulnerability to be overcome by it. I almost believe that Pamela is in a masculine position of power in that she possesses what he wants, and it her decision whether or not to succumb. B, as head of the household and a member of the upper class, expects to get what he wants. His masculinity lies in this expectation. However, Pamela exposes his inability to effectively occupy his masculinity and ultimately threatens his identity.
I guess my question is, how does the novel Pamela reinforce traditional gender roles and notions of power? How is B’s insecurity in his masculinity a factor in his pursuit of Pamela? And is there a power shift once they get married?