“…and your selfish disdain for the feelings of others made me realize that you are the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry.“
-Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.
That was the impression I got of Pamela and Mr. B at the beginning and a tumultuous courtship to a marriage with social obstacles. Indeed it is like Austen (minus her charm). However, the wit of the character Pamela almost bordered on Austenesque me thinks. It is thus no wonder Austen drew some of her inspiration from Richardson’s Clarissa (albeit more toned-down and less pornographic, in the Regency sense of the word).
Rather interestingly, why Elizabeth could never be prevailed to marry Darcy was his lack of tact and presumptions that she would have accepted his marriage request because of her social standing. In a similar fashion, Pamela recognises her position as a Lady’s waiting-maid. A position much lower than the Bennets (Pride & Prejudice) who were of the gentry class, though penniless. However, the Andrews have descended into near poverty by the male Andrews’ debts.
“Had I marry’d with the Views of most Gentlemen, and with such as my good Sister… would have recommended, I had wedded a fine Lady, brought up pretty much in my own Manner, and used to have her Will in every thing.” – Pamela (P.445, Oxford’s World Classics).
His persistence is heartening, but does this not reflect Darcy’s long struggle, often curbed by the social boundaries that dictate norms? Of course, to begin with, Mr. B was not a likeable character. Charming, rich and handsome, which gave him a license to be over-bearing and presumptions to “oppress” Pamela.
“Oh! what can the abject Poor do against the mighty Rich, when they are determin’d to oppress?” –Pamela (P. 99, Oxford’s World Classics)
P for Poor and P for Pamela. Because of the nature of the text, we see everything from Pamela’s point of view, or more precisely, her letters. She writes succinctly and with such accuracy that one has to stop and ponder about the objectivity of the relation of events. Personally, it is the equivalent of reading one’s incessant Facebook statuses and pictures, a never-ending tirade.
Unlike the public setting of social media, however, Pamela does not have the advantage of restricted privacy settings. In fact, her letters are Pamela’s heart, heavily evidenced in her flurry to conceal her letters in her “bosom”.
Like the tyrant he is, Mr. B demands to read her letters, suspicious of conspiracy (even Kim Jong Il would be blush in the face of such un-political demands). And it is letters that dictate the outcome of circumstances. The letters that underlie false appearances. In other circumstances, letters hide a different meaning.
“What is thou meanest by shewing me this Letter? -Why, Madam, said I, to shew your Ladyship how I was engaged for this Day and Evening. – And for nothing else? said she.” –Pamela (P. 394, Oxford’s World Classics).
The act of “shew”-ing is often cast in doubt, something worth exploring I believe in my next blog post.
Like every other Austenesque story, Mr. B’s words “That her Person made me her Lover; but her Mind made her my Wife.” parallels those of Darcy’s to Elizabeth. Of course, I do not wish to continue drawing parallels between both novels, although it is rather tempting too.
For now, I shall leave you to enjoy the delight of Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness.