“In the library I felt better, words you could trust and look at till you understood them, they couldn’t change half way through a sentence like people, so it was easier to spot a lie.” – Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit.
Mm not so with Pamela, or at least several readers would heavily disagree with that statement if they had read Pamela.
For every epistolary novel, we would well expect that it is composed of letters. Some great classics have been epistolary novels, unfortunately, not every epistolary novel is a great classic because one is completely subject to the view and perception of one. The typical novel would perhaps be made up of many perspectives to enrich one’s reading experience.
Pamela, fortunately, is one such novel that belongs to the former category of epistolary novels.
Unlike Austen’s Lady Susan (one of Austen’s few novellas) where one reads or hears the voices of many. Pamela is unusual because one only hears her narrative (accompanied by the occasional reply from Pamela’s parents). We believe that her account of events are true. And it is the truth that constantly eludes us readers. If you are the mild-mannered critic, you may feel that you are on the deceived end.
Many have commented on her mistaking a cow for a bull, so perhaps she is one for the dramatics. Cows and bulls may be of the same species (and type of animal) but they are made of vastly different temperaments.
The textual authority of Pamela, thus, perhaps comes into question many times. Some even wonder if she has been putting Mr. B. of for the sake of virtue. If her goal was marriage to Mr. B, however, I would congratulate her on her success. However, that would attract the attention of critics and think her the virtuous girl posing as a vixen or more aptly, the “virtuous vixen”.
In fact, in Shamela (Henry Fielding’s reply, dripping with heavy sarcasm and scorn), there seems to be some deceit when the mental camera swivels to a different thought-process:
“… I pretended to be shy: Laud, says I, Sir, I hope you don’t intend to be rude; no, says he, my Dear, and then he kissed me, ’till he took away my Breath- and I pretended to be angry…” – Shamela, Henry Fielding.
Other critiques, of course, think that there is some measure of self-fashioning that Pamela practices. However, the expression of her sorrow and sense of injustice of the world does not go unnoticed. The example of taking Psalm 137 and fashioning it into a Biblical mourning of her fate, we are called to identify with the genius of Pamela’s mind.
Perhaps it is naivete, but I choose to see the “white” side of this bonny lass then suspect her of deceit.