Tomorrow Will Be Anxious for Itself: A Close Reading of Devotion and Allusion in “Pamela”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

On page 496 of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, the young woman ponders her account of God’s mysteries. Her story’s strange circumstances provide sight of both personas of Mr. B___: one foul, one noble. Her successful endurance through frightening displays of his physical control over her fuels burgeoning comprehension of the role lack of worry plays in self-preservation. A reading of the scene contextualized by Matthew 6 allows the reader to grasp the ways in which Richardson might have used Scripture to ground exposition of the residual anxiety that haunts Pamela in matrimony; at the very least, we see that her inability to accept the bliss afforded to her is allegorical, rather than annoying.

Samuel Richardson held religion in high esteem, particularly as a reason to write. He pursued “an easy and natural manner” rather than that of the “improbable and marvellous” romances of his time (Dobson). The unrealistic nature of Pamela’s romance suggests that the author intended more meaning than the sentiments directly expressed. Rather, it seems that he intended her natural confusion and reservation regarding the new state of Mr. B___ as kind partner to emphasize Matthew 6, a chapter that might, to a hesitant reader, appear to be more about birds than personal freedom. Pamela spends pages on these trepidations: just after her husband assuages them, she begins again. To the reader, these concerns feel repetitive and unnecessary. To an eternal God, they must be even more so.

The simplicity of Pamela’s joy establishes that her issues meant less than they did at the time. Her letters create a record of difficulties, and even though she escapes the compulsion to cast herself as a victim (outside of well-intentioned verse), they represent the human urge to cultivate a record of wrongs. Richardson shifts the message to that of Matthew 6. In doing so, he upholds the reality that humans, like birds, are not created to store anything up or away. Here, we see that Pamela is not able to contain her feelings, so much so that Mr. B____ “would [only] permit [her] to say, That I was not displeased with him!—Displeased with you, dearest Sir! said I: Let me thus testify my Obligations, and the force all your Commands shall have upon me” (496). The reflexivity of her excited words draws through from the dully lyrical sentences before it to the moment of truth, and she kisses him, viewing it as a Liberty.

Neither of them can handle the intensity of their love, but she accedes to fear almost immediately. She draws away, writing “but yet my Mind was pained at times, and has been to this Hour.” She receives a gift, yet places constraints on emotion. Pamela expresses thoughts that are centered on Mr. B___’s death, concluding that she “cannot bear to suppose—[she] cannot say more on such a deep Subject!” She proceeds with the thought that human Life is a “poor thing… subjected to imaginary Evils” and loses sight of what compelled her to begin with.

This method of thought is perfidious because of how quickly it draws her off track. Throughout this, she holds her concerns to be below her “shallow Mind.” Although this may be true, the connection to her God sustains hundreds of pages; throughout these, she often brushes off what matters in a misguided attempt to feel free in her own way. Then when she is surprised by what happens, it fits in as something distinct, accepted within her parameters rather than as something to witness. Richardson teases out the qualities of her experience, exploring the series of perturbations and how she addresses the realities, hopes, dreams, and fears of a constantly-evolving life. In passages such as this one, he plants sentences that show her mindset; here, she thinks of death as an ending for “this excellently generous Benefactor” and buries her feelings in worry. Here, like before, she prays what she wants. This act frees her from the brutal words which pinpoint the experience of her incidentally-tumultuous life. In doing so, she attains the acuity and focus to draw her through to another era.

Pamela maintains a posture of worship while warding off her sly Master, who attempts to exert himself over her. Despite the threat of violent rape, Pamela worships the LORD; her eyes retain light and she avoids the expression of darkness. She remains pure. Ultimately, she perceives the futility of “Apprehension of remote Contingencies” due to joy which truly abounds (Richardson 496). The institution of marriage guides Pamela to rely on Mr. B____ as she begins to release the burden of wariness. Her life soon becomes peaceful, as Pamela witnesses the sustenance of Mr. B___’s ardent love for her. The discourse of this passage with the sixth chapter of Matthew showcases Pamela’s newfound maturity.

The anxiety she experiences arises from worries of instability and sequestration. From attempted escape by way of a window to hidden letters, she continually turns to suitable devices for the maiden under duress who Richardson so disdains. However, she persists with a determined spirit and dedication to her personal record. The reward of her hope lies in Heaven, safe from the theft posing danger to treasure on Earth. The implicit presence of the Bible in Pamela justifies an examination of implicit parallels between the teachings of Jesus and the beliefs of Pamela, who esteems the power of language. Moreover, the textual evidence appears particularly significant in light of Richardson’s Biblical references throughout the novel, as documented in footnotes. Pamela’s consistent use of the moniker “Master” for Mr. B____ helps the reader understand the nature of Pamela’s trials. She cannot prevent the will of Mr. B____ even as she sequesters herself, yet she escapes scotch-free; as her life is in flux, the prospect of subjection to matrimonial constraints frightens her, so much so that she displays it as a yearning for reassurance. Mr. B____ occupies a position from which she could be destroyed externally or internally scarred, yet God persists.

This means that Mr. B____ never shakes Pamela’s faith, even when she herself does not feel a thing. His positioning as husband illustrates that Pamela has no reason to escape: she is safe. Before matrimony, her salvation rests with the man’s actions. Jesus says, “no one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Pamela overcomes her disgust of Mr. B____ without displacing the significance of God in her life. Her overtly Christian marriage solidifies the hierarchy of duty in which Pamela places herself. Her dedication to her husband serves as worship to the overarching Master, while Mr. B____ cultivates his own religious devotion.

The scene in Pamela holds strong parallels to the themes of Matthew 6, and further attention only strengthens grounds for a Biblical comparison. For one thing, Richardson’s contemporaries knew the Book well, whether more for its literary merit or religious status. Another reason is the general significance of the chapter, which contains the Lord’s Prayer. The connection initially appears in terms of worry and general concern, but this originates in trust; Pamela must feel the release of her justified tension before she knows what is next. Perhaps surprisingly, her difficult past allows her to move beyond the barriers she sets up for herself. Only through worship does she escape the impulse to hold back and solely express the things she would like to hear assuaged. This selfish desire prevents the bliss God intends for her, and Richardson hopes to show this.

Aside from page 494, when Mr. B___ suggests that he is not “such a Herod” as to ask Pamela never to seek any other men in the event of separation, the closest religious footnote appears on page 447. This defines the concept of “supererogatory,” which is defined as “the surplus of good works.” In Roman Catholicism, this form of performance can mitigate the effect of sin and help the penitent sinner. This formulation of merit contrasts with the religious development of Pamela and Mr. B___, who learn not to trust external signifiers of devotion through the processes of misunderstanding and resolution. Matthew 6 elucidates Pamela’s meditation, and analysis of her thoughts in light of the chapter helps absorption of the lessons contained in the text. Mr. B___’s request for her to maintain pleasant appearance cannot perturb her while she begins to comprehend that her body cannot be defined by the nature of her dress . Samuel Richardson’s interaction with Biblical guidance demonstrates the pathways through which Pamela and Mr. B____ transcend class for the sake of their love. The reassurance of Jesus’ words allow Pamela to move beyond her initial preoccupation with manner and aesthetic. Herein lies her freedom.

Richardson wished to avoid the improbable novel, and, in Pamela, he establishes startling plot twists in such a way as to draw the attention of his reader to the Bible. His interaction with the chapter of Matthew 6 shows how an allegory provides subtle insight to a framework of cultural awareness, and that this long-ago novel interacts with a passage familiar today. The section of his novel displays more than just the fabric of influence, especially because he avoids direct allusion in this way. Rather, he uses the epistolary form to track Pamela’s consciousness as she grapples with her life and lives amidst a world of strange improbabilities.

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Far Past Mecca: Religion in the Persian Letters

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Writing, like oration, is a deliberate act. Those who speak or debate for a living hone their skills so well that they are capable of arguing either side of a case with equal passion and persuasion. Any reasonably skilled writer is capable of doing the same, particularly since he or she is not limited by the exigencies of the moment and can edit or redact at will. It is therefore impossible to say, with certainty, exactly what a writer believes, thinks, or feels based solely on the product on his pen. This is particularly true in an absolutist or totalitarian environment, wherein authors can be imprisoned or even executed for overtly criticizing the wrong person. Yet throughout Les Lettres Persanes Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu creates satirical caricatures of religion and of religious people. The notion of religious tolerance and freedom, even filtered as it is through the words of imaginary narrators, was risky enough to make de Montesquieu publish the 1721 book under a pseudonym (1). This essay will show the strategies used by de Montesquieu to portray religion in a very critical way: beneficial chiefly in the abstract, but hypocritical, self-important, and even predatory in practice. The text is not kind to anybody, but it mocks religious individuals more gently by presenting them as well-intentioned hypocrites. The most trenchant irony is reserved for the First Estate, the members of which are presented as not just self-interested but actively predatory. Religious freedom is never explicitly endorsed in Les Lettres Persanes, but the sentiments expressed by the fictional characters therein appear to support it at times.

Born in 1689 (2), de Montesquieu came of age during the reign of Louis XIV, who between 1643 and 1715 (3) presided over an absolutist empire in which aristocratic families (known as the Second Estate) were part of a very privileged class to whom education was readily available. Yet even the social liberties permitted to the noble class did not quite permit an author to criticize members of the First Estate. In Les Lettres, Montesquieu frequently makes a point through a narrator who, while overtly proclaiming something, is unreliable enough to convince the reader that the author intends the opposite.

This author never explicitly says that religion is bad, or that there’s no such thing as a God. At times, the characters speculate as to what God must be like, but it’s always a positive and perfect image. But, when it comes to human beings, Montesquieu presents them as misguided, corrupt, self-absorbed, and hypocritical.

“I give thanks to Almighty God, Who sent His great prophet Hali, whence it is that I profess a religion which requires to be preferred before all human interest, and which is as pure as the sky from which it came.” (4) These words are attributed to Usbek, an owner of multiple slaves and concubines, who has just finished criticizing what he characterizes as Christian hypocrisy of freeing slaves in one’s own country for religious reasons, only to enslave people in other nations. The more overtly a de Montesquieu character praises or condemns something, the more ironic the praise or censure becomes. Usbek himself appears to regard Islam as a “pure” religion, and Islamic lands as being somehow peaceful and superior despite the extremely corrupt goings-on in the court of Sultan Ahmed III (who reigned at the time in which the fictional Usbek would have been traveling in Europe). Ironically, Ahmed III was known for being a modernizing influence in the Ottoman Empire, and was a devoted Francophile. (5)

When the character Usbek presents “his” thoughts in general terms, stating his opinion of the human condition, he does not confine his observations to religion. He describes humanity as self-interested overall: “Men act unjustly, because it is in their interest to do so, and because they prefer their own satisfaction to that of others. They act always to secure some advantage to themselves: no one is a villain gratis; there is always a determining motive, and that motive is always an interested one.” (6) But in the early part of the book, Usbek identifies self-interest as a uniquely Christian and European trait, and contrasts it with his idealized vision of his own nation.

Through the eyes of the Persian visitors, European traits are exaggerated for the sake of irony. Usbek remarks on the European habit of religious discussion, which he interprets as a lack of faith: “With them there is a vast difference between profession and belief, between belief and conviction, between conviction and practice. Religion is not so much a matter of holiness as it is the subject of a debate, in which everybody has a right to join.” (7) Yet the fact this debate occurred in France is evidence that the violent suppression of the Protestant religious viewpoint during the Huguenot rebellion of the 1620’s (8) is no longer a credible threat, so that ordinary people feel free to discuss or dispute religion, within limits.

Usbek meets and describes “certain people who are never done discussing religion, but who seem at the same time to contend as to who shall observe it least.” (9) He goes on to describe his notion of the best way to serve God, which is to follow the rules of the religion and the nation. Yet Usbek himself, though he purports to be devout, has not yet bothered with the obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca. In Letter 15, his servant the First Eunuch expresses a desire that he do that, so as to cleanse himself. (10)

When it comes to the clergy, de Montesquieu takes the gloves off. Although he points out the hypocrisy in lay people and allows Usbek to point at it repeatedly, the criticism of clerical hypocrisy is far more vicious. “These dervishes take three oaths: of obedience, of poverty, and of chastity. They say that the first is the best observed of the three, as to the second, it is not observed at all; you can form your own opinion with regard to the third.” (11) This next passage describes the corruption the cheekier Rica sees in the Church: “Thus, if any one wishes to escape the fast of Rhamazan or is unwilling to submit to the formalities of marriage, or wishes to break his vows, or to marry within the prescribed degrees, or even to forswear himself, all he has to do is to apply or a bishop, or to the Pope, who will at once grant a dispensation.” (12) Rica describes his first impression of the concepts of holy trinity and transubstantiation, two important articles of faith for Catholics of the time:

There is another magician more powerful still, who is master of the king’s mind, as absolutely as the king is master of the minds of his subjects. This magician is called the Pope. Sometimes he makes the king believe that three are no more than one; that the bread which he eats is not bread; the wine which he drinks not wine; and a thousand things of a like nature. (13)

One passage in a letter from Rica depicts Church representatives, bureaucrats, and judges as not just hypocritical but dangerously predatory:

Other judges assume the innocence of the accused; these always deem them guilty. In dubious cases, their rule is to lean to the side of severity, apparently because they think mankind desperately wicked. And yet, when it suits them, they have such a high opinion of mankind, that they think them incapable of lying; for they accept as witnesses, mortal enemies, loose women, and people whose trade is infamous. In sentencing culprits, they pay them a little compliment. Having dressed them in brimstone shirts, they assure them that they are much grieved to see them in such sorry attire; that they are tender-hearted, abhorring bloodshed, and are quite overcome at having to condemn them. Then these heart-broken judges console themselves by confiscating to their own use all the goods of their miserable victims. (14)

On the subject of religious tolerance, de Montesquieu allows his characters to speak plainly and explicitly. Although at no point is religious freedom recommended overall, Usbek has this to say about the Jews he has observes in Europe:

They have never been freer from molestation in Europe than they are now. Christians are beginning to lose the spirit of intolerance which animated them: experience has shown the error of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, and of the persecution of those Christians in France whose belief differed a little from that of the king. They have realized that zeal for the advancement of religion is different from a due attachment to it; and that in order to love it and fulfil its behests, it is not necessary to hate and persecute those who are opposed to it. It is much to be desired that our Mussulmans regarded this matter as rationally… (15)

Montesquieu ultimately presents religious sentiment as a positive force, and he never goes so far as to criticize God or assert any form of atheism. But the human beings in the book are all imperfect, even the narrators. Most of the religious individuals in the book come across as self-absorbed, well-intentioned hypocrites. The Second Estate is depicted as corrupt and predatory. Although the text supports the abstract notion of religion, it criticizes the way people follow it. To the extent the text can be assumed to reflect de Montesquieu’s actual thoughts, one might label him a freethinker who approves of religion, but has no faith in humanity.

End Notes

1) Dutton, Paul Edward et al. Many Europes, vol. II. Copyright 2014 by McGraw Hill, NY. Paperback. Pages 501-502

2) Dutton, Paul Edward et al. Many Europes, vol. II. Copyright 2014 by McGraw Hill, NY. Paperback. Pages 423

3) Dutton, Paul Edward et al. Many Europes, vol. II. Copyright 2014 by McGraw Hill, NY. Paperback. Pages 464, 466

4) Letter 75, Usbek to Rhedi, at Venice

5) Palmer, Alan. The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire. Copyright 1992, reprinted 2009 Barnes and Noble. Hardcover. Pages 30-42.

6) Letter 84, Usbek to Rhedi, at Venice

7) Letter 75, Usbek to Rhedi, at Venice

8) Dutton, Paul Edward et al. Many Europes, vol. II. Copyright 2014 by McGraw Hill, NY. Paperback. Pages 412

9) Letter 46, Usbek to Rhedi, at Venice

10) Letter 15, the First Eunuch to Jaron, at Erzeroum

11) Letter 57, Usbek to Rhedi, at Venice

12) Letter 29, Rica to Ibben, at Smyrna

13) Letter 24, Rica to Ibben, at Smyrna

14) Letter 75, Usbek to Rhedi, at Venice

15) Letter 60, Usbek to Ibben, at Smyrna


Dutton, Paul Edward et al. Many Europes, vol. II. Copyright 2014 by McGraw Hill, NY. Paperback.

Palmer, Alan. The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire. Copyright 1992, reprinted 2009 Barnes and Noble. Hardcover.

De Secondat, Charles. (Montesquieu) Les Lettres Persanes. Public Domain. Retrieved from http://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Lettres_persanes

De Secondat, Charles. (Montesquieu) The Persian Letters. Public Domain. John Davidson, translator. Retrieved from http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Persian_Letters.

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Womanhood and Its Implications in Richardson’s Pamela

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Pamela: or Virtue Rewarded is an epistolary novel by Samuel Richardson, published in 1740 and set in the first half of the eighteenth century. It is said that this novel went against the aristocratic dimension of the typical romantic themes that the majority of readers were used to (Virtue, Gender, and the Authentic Self in Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 1, Christine Roulston, 1998). It is of every significance that the lead character in this novel is the blossoming and beautiful Pamela. Her gender and her social ranking in society play key roles in the unfolding of this story and are precisely the factors that led her to become the sexual target of her employer. We witness this controversial tale of seduction and virtue through the thoughts and words of a young woman who was preyed upon by someone who had great power over her. Gender is one of the main themes in this novel, and Pamela’s own gender in particular plays a key role in this tale.

Pamela’s gender was not as significant when her master had been a woman, Mr. B’s mother. Although they were placed differently on the social ladder, they were equally female. However, after her passing, Mr B had control over Pamela. Not only was he seen as more valuable in society’s eyes, but he was also a man. At this time, in the early eighteenth century and arguably even in the present day, men were seen as the more dominant gender. Disregarding his position as her employer, if they had been of the same social class, people probably would of seen him as having the upper hand regardless, simply because of his gender. Gender also plays a key role not only because Pamela is female, but because of the incident when Mr. B took it upon himself to dress as a woman similar to Pamela. After his many failed attempts to seduce his beautiful, young servant, he decided to lower himself to the position of his workers and disguise himself as one of Pamela’s colleagues, Nan. After the rejection that he had received previously, this act showed how desperate this man was to be with this young girl. In this scene of disguise, Pamela not only undresses her body but she also speaks emotionally which is in fact undressing her mind in front of Mr. B, her employer (Virtue, Gender, and the Authentic Self in Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 14, Christine Roulston, 1998). Because Pamela is a female, it is perfectly okay in this novel to be undressing and reflecting truthfully on her thoughts in front of other female colleagues including Mrs. Jewkes but not in front of Mr. B or any other man. In order for Mr. B to get a closer look at Pamela’s body and a more intimate understanding of her mind, it was necessary for him to become a ‘woman’, even if it was just for a short period of time, it worked.

Pamela’s whole identity displays her as an easy target, Her undeniable youthful beauty attracts her sexual predator. If the protagonist had not been a character of such a young age, she would not have looked like such a naive and vulnerable aim for Mr. B. Her youth is a clear reason why she is so strongly maintaining her chastity, in honour of her poor parents.The fact that Pamela comes from a family that are severely less fortunate than Mr. B’s family, is very important in this play. This immediately places Mr. B above Pamela in the reader’s mind, even if we don’t realise it. Pamela herself even places Mr. B above her, because of his wealth and her lack of it. She is shocked that he would even consider a girl like her: “Well, but, Mrs. Jervis, said I, let me ask you, if he can stoop to like such a poor girl as me, as perhaps he may, (for I have read of things almost as strange, from great men to poor damsels,) What can it be for?—He may condescend, perhaps, to think I may be good enough for his harlot; and those things don’t disgrace men that ruin poor women, as the world goes” (Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded, Letter XIX Samuel Richardson, 1740). We learn through the letters that Pamela’s parents send to her that their family was once very much above the poverty that they are experiencing at the time this story took place. “We are, ’tis true, very poor, and find it hard enough to live; tho’ once, as you know, it was better with us” (Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded, Letter II, Samuel Richardson, 1740). As his servant, Pamela’s job description is to serve him. This gives Mr. B intense power over his worker. Pamela is aware that Mr. B has complete control over her, particularly when he was keeping her in captivity. “And pray, said I, walking on, how came I to be his Property? What right has he in me, but such as a Thief may plead to stolen Goods? Why, was ever the like heard, says she! This is downright Rebellion, I protest!” (Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded, Samuel Richardson, 1740). This seems to be one of the main reasons that Mr. B made physical advances towards Pamela. Because he was in charge of her and was the one providing her with almost everything in her life, he may have thought that he was entitled to whatever he wanted from her. Undeniably, this was far from the truth.

In a sense, Mr. B was a villainous person who seemed to look down on the people who were not as entitled as him. He was used to getting what he desired, however he was unable to receive Pamela and her body in the way that he wanted. He tried forcing himself on her, raping her and even directly asking her to be his mistress. Perhaps he did look down on Pamela, but he also seemed to be fascinated by her and the fact that she would not accept his flirtatious offers and advances. Her role as a servant was very important to the story of Pamela, because despite what he thought, Mr. B’s wealth and the fact that his occupation was ranked above Pamela’s, did not mean that he was entitled to her in a sexual nor an emotional way.After reading this shocking yet entertaining novel, I feel quite sorry for Pamela’s character. Although this is a fictional novel, it indicates that there were countless young women in Pamela’s position. She was a young fifteen year old girl, full of youth, virtue and innocence. She was also living in such poverty that she desperately took the position of a slave to provide for her family. This character is full of kindness and goodwill, but yet she was the one who was targeted and manipulated by a man as unpleasant and controlling as Mr. B. At the end of the novel, when the couple are ‘happily’ married, the title Virtue Rewarded can be contemplated. It suggests that because of the kind of person she was, she was lucky to have ended up with her master, Mr. B. In my opinion, being married to a man who was willing to compromise her virtue was not a great enough reward for refusing to compromise her virtue all along; perhaps it was indeed her youth and social ranking that caused her naivety.

Throughout the novel, Pamela was strong minded and brave, maintaining her pride and virtue in honour of herself and her poverty stricken parents. However, we as readers may have overestimated her independence, as she proves when she eventually falls for a man who has treated her in the past with such disrespect. It is every reader’s delight to see that the lovely character of Pamela who was once so poor is no longer struggling financially, nor are her family. But it is still disheartening to read that she has settled and found her ‘happy’ life with Mr. B. Although the ending is unexpected and hard to comprehend, it is a very intriguing piece of socially-minded literature. In a letter to his friend Aaron Hill penned after he had written this novel, Richardson himself claimed that it was “a new species of writing” (Virtue, Gender, and the Authentic Self in Eighteenth-Century Fiction, (Christine Roulston, 1998).

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The Power of Example: Fantomina and Pamela

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

To act as an ‘example’ is to influence another’s actions. If the effects are, as Johnson claims, ‘powerful’, a responsibility of care accompanies the role of example. This responsibility may seem unnecessary, as the example seizes the ‘memory’, and exists only as a mental influence. However, this influence only temporarily exists in the mind. The ‘effects’ are realised in actions, capable of affecting individuals in a surrounding environment. A responsibility is therefore present in the conscious effort to exhibit one’s behaviour as a positive moral example, in order for these ‘effects’ that are realised in others to also be positive. Johnson specifies that these effects are produced ‘without the intervention of will’. Perhaps this suggests that the responsibility of example is present in all action, not simply the conscious activity of moulding oneself in to a positive influence. If the ‘intervention of will’ is removed, neither the example, nor the individual affected by the example have a choice as to which of their actions act as the example. Both Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela engage with this concept of all action as ‘example’. Even seemingly arbitrary actions have powerful effects, suggesting that all action is inescapable from a moral responsibility.

Throughout the eighteenth century novel, the characters are often categorized by social class. Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina challenges the concept that the powerful effect of ‘example’ is restricted to social class, and it’s associated customs. The effects of example are so powerful that they disregard social hierarchy, and are able to affect individuals across class boundaries. Fantomina’s original example, the prostitute in the opening scene, is unnamed but central as the influence that ‘excited a Curiosity in her to know in what Manner these Creatures were addressed.’[1] Physically restricted by social class, Fantomina resides in a box, whilst the prostitute remains in the ‘Pit’. Interaction with her example therefore does not occur, suggesting that the power of example can be active through gaze alone. However, her ‘curiosity’ is ‘excited’, not created. This suggests a generalized dissatisfaction with her experience of class restrictions that has remained dormant, but is still deeply established within a history of female repression. Fantomina is only able to act upon this frustration now through the introduction of an example she can imitate; the prostitute offers an approach that will bypasses the restrictions of female tradition. The power of example is arguably lessened by this argument, as the ‘curiosity’ already exists within Fantomina. Furthermore, the gaze provokes her ‘curiosity’ to a ‘kind of violence’, so that the prostitute’s influence almost completely surpasses the process of taking ‘possession of the memory’. As soon as Fantomina witnesses the ‘Manner’ the prostitutes act, she begins to enact her ‘resolutions’ (Haywood, p.227). For this ‘Frolic’ to be possible, Fantomina must lower herself to below human form, to a ‘Creature’, in order to consciously neglect the burden of responsibility associated with the status of a Lady. [2] Haywood therefore refuses to align Fantomina with a class-specific, restrictive example. If the power of example were so influential as to affect Fantomina through sight alone, even the interaction with an upper class example would be arguably ineffectual.

Instead of a freedom to cross social boundaries, Richardson’s Pamela displays an expectation that example should be restricted by social class. Margaret Anne Doody suggests that none of Richardson’s female characters are ‘absolute’, and need a constant positive example to make them so. [1]. Richardson thus presents Lady Davers as the character who should exist as this upper class example to make Pamela ‘absolute’. Yet, her vocabulary rejects this expectation: ‘the Wench could not talk thus, if she had not been her Master’s Bed-fellow’ (Richardson, p.384). A lower class terminology, that includes ‘wench’, creates a parallel between the two women –Pamela regularly calls Mrs Jewkes a ‘pursy, fat Thing’– that suggests both require a polite example to become ‘absolute’, regardless of their ancestry (Richardson, p.114). Lady Davers is therefore identified as a bad example, and her influential ‘power’ is lessened. Unlike Fantomina, Pamela can choose to refuse both the sight of, and interaction with her expected ‘example’. Additionally, this interplay of characters occurs in private, suggesting a difference between this and public discourse. Lady Davers freely engages with the subject of desire, an emotion expected to be neither felt nor discussed by women. This presents the role of an upper class example as perhaps exclusive to a public construction of behavior, that exists only to fulfill social expectations. In private, Richardson inverts these public expectations of example. Pamela is able to refuse Lady Davers’ negative influence by recognizing her own morality as a better example. Ironically, the girl accused of acting as her ‘Master’s Bed-fellow’ acts as the positive example that will make the Lady ‘absolute’. ‘Power’ of example can therefore vary according to recipient. Pamela commits this scene to memory, as she recounts it to Mr B. later, yet does not allow this influence to ‘take possession’ of her. In Pamela, the power of example is restricted to the socially superior, a concept condemned by Richardson through Pamela’s refusal of Lady Davers’ influence.

Richardson and Haywood also present their protagonists as the example, and explore how ‘powerful’ their effects are upon others. Tassie Gwilliam comments ‘it is easy to see how the line separating the woman who performs for an audience without knowing it from the woman who consciously performs for that male audience can blur’. [1] This concept separates Pamela and Fantomina as characters. The effects of example are arguably more powerful when they derive naturally within an individual, as opposed to a performance. Pamela possesses, and emanates, the attributes of a good example naturally: For Beauty, Virtue, Prudence, and Generosity […] she has more than any Lady […] she has all these naturally; they are born with her (Richardson, p.423). Authenticity seems to influence how powerful an example is. Pamela is defined a truer example than ‘any Lady’, as morally positive attributes are ‘born with her’. This suggests that the occurrence of these qualities naturally is more influential that a conscious performance, a mere imitation of a natural example. Through being ‘born’ with ‘Beauty, Virtue’ and ‘Prudence’, Richardson implies it be almost hereditary, rejecting the association of a refined sensibility with the upper class. Pamela’s parents are classed as socially inferior due to their poverty, yet morally they are such powerful examples that it appears to be inherent in their DNA. Perhaps Pamela has only maintained this existence as a natural example through her original position in the social hierarchy. In comparison, Lady Davers’ privileged upbringing has taught her a proper, public conduct, suggesting that any virtue she exhibits is a performance. Whilst this praise is spoken by Mr B., Pamela reports them to the reader through the epistolary form. This secondary layer of narrative distances the reader from the reality Pamela experiences, defining her narrative as, however close to realism, a performance. As Gwilliam suggests, the ‘line’ between an unconscious and conscious performance is blurred. However, this performative epistolary form is irrelevant when considering Pamela as an example. She is identified as a natural positive example, and this aligns her Gwilliam’s more positive definition of the ‘unconscious’ performer.

The woman who consciously performs is thus condemned as almost incapable of existing as a positive moral example. After acting as Fantomina, Haywood’s protagonist constructs a number of different identities –the widow, the servant, Incognita –who each consciously perform a public, virtuous behavior. Pamela maintains this virtue in private, whilst Fantomina submits to both her own and Beauplaisir’s desire: ‘by these Arts of passing on him as a new Mistress […] I have him always raving, wild, impatient’ (Haywood, p.243). Haywood almost encourages a condemnation of Fantomina as a bad example. She actively performs as the woman who unconsciously performs, each character feigning a virginal status and ignorance of Beauplaisir’s true nature. However, to Beauplaisir, this performance is reality; she is an ‘unconscious’ performer to him, ‘passing’ as a new Mistress each time. In order to sustain this pretense in private also, Fantomina must change her identity constantly to match the requirements of Beauplaisir’s desire. Therefore, she claims ‘I have him’, implying a female, dominant possession, yet is also as ‘wild’ and ‘impatient’ as him. Fantomina’s virtue is a public performance, and cannot exist as a positive moral example through a lack of consistency. Her identity and virtue changes in private, suggesting Fantomina does not possess the natural attributes of a virtuous example that Richardson’s Pamela does. Refusing this moral example is perhaps self-conscious. She consistently labels her affairs as an ‘Art’, suggesting a submergence so far in to her reality based on performance that she cannot return to a reality to fulfill social expectations of this morally positive example. According to Gwilliam, Fantomina is categorized as the woman who ‘consciously performs’, and thus she cannot emanate the power of example naturally. Haywood acknowledges Fantomina’s actions as a bad example of virtue, and instead presents her as a positive example of female independence. Fantomina’s effects of example are therefore powerful, however not in the expected, or same, context as Pamela’s.

Thus far, the power of example has been assumed to be undeniable in influence. Yet, both novels also challenge how ‘great’ the external influence of example is compared to one’s own conscious, internalized desires. In Haywood’s Fantomina, Beauplaisir refuses to act as a morally positive example, and instead chooses to sate his own desire. This is emphasized by Fantomina’s expectations of how women should be ‘addressed’ by men, even when she identifies herself as a prostitute: she told him, that she was a Virgin, […] [it was] far from obliging him to desist –nay, in the present burning Eagerness of Desire (Haywood, p.30). Gentlemanly conduct is an ‘[obligation’] for Fantomina, and she especially expects this after revealing her virginal status. Yet, Beauplaisir’s conduct is perhaps immune to the power of a gentleman’s example, especially in this moment. With example, it’s influence is committed to memory, and then a period of time passes before it affects the subject. This ‘burning Eagerness of Desire’ is instead identified as existing in the ‘present’, where spontaneous emotion overpowers any influences that may exist in the memory. An insistence is reflected also in syntax. The dash not only adds a breath, as if to imitate physical pleasure, but creates a momentum in the sentence that mirrors the increasing progression of action that Fantomina struggles to slow. As an experience of the moment, desire seizes the person without the ‘intervention of will’, similarly to the effects of example that Johnson establishes. If desire produces the same effects, but originates instead from internal influence, it suggests that the power of external example is not as ‘great’ as Johnson suggests. Arguably, the power of example could be seen as greater as desire exists as an emotion. Yet, as soon as this emotion is felt in the ‘burning’ ‘present’, it demands to be physically sated also. Desire therefore induces as much action as the power of example influences. Therefore, the ‘power’ of example is temporarily overpowered as ‘great’, as desire forces imminent action, whilst example can be rejected when it still exists as a mental influence. This allows Beauplaisir to ignore the morally positive example exhibited by gentleman, and choose to sate his desire instead.

Throughout Fantomina, Beauplaisir is immune to the power of positive example. In Pamela, Mr B. only adheres temporarily to the eighteenth century ‘rake’ stereotype. His initial refusal to accept the responsibility of example transitions from Beauplaisir’s insistent moment of desire to a consistent, genuine love. His original choice that favors desire over either following or exhibiting a respectable example, is recounted by Pamela in Letter XI. It is addressed to her Mother alone, despite almost every other letter being addressed to both parents. This suggests that male desire, and it’s consequences for women, was a subject to be addressed by women alone: ‘I found myself in his Arms, quite void of Strength, and he kissed me two or three times, as if he would have eaten me’ (Richardson, p.23). In her nervous state, Pamela is void of ‘Strength’ physically. Yet she also actively refuses any emotional agency, subsequently denying any desires felt. She ‘found’ herself draped on him, and ‘he kissed [her]’, emphasizing his dominance over her through the order of pronoun. Only through presenting this experience as undesired can Pamela preserve her virginity wholly, as she refuses even lustful thought. Her lack of agency is further suggested in Mr B.’s almost animalistic strength, becoming primal in his desire to ‘[eat]’ her. This emphasizes the physical ‘violence’ that desire can inadvertently cause in the urge to be sated, provoking Mr B. to actions almost ‘without the intervention of [his] will’. As the novel progresses, the powerful effects of Pamela’s morally good example reform Mr B. Richardson suggests this is only possible through marriage. The sacrament forces Mr B.’s relationship with Pamela to the public sphere. She is, by law, now a Lady, and is considered an equal and able to inflict her example upon her husband. Therefore, the effects of Pamela’s virtuous example are consistently more powerful than the ‘rake’ stereotype. However, it is only when Pamela ascends the social hierarchy, is she given the opportunity to inflict it.

Each novel explores the ‘power’ of example. In exploring the success of an example, it must be considered if the example presented is identical to what the author intended. Richardson and Haywood both display protagonists that exhibit an example, respectively good and bad. However, each character cannot, and does not maintain this example constantly throughout each novel. Fantomina and Pamela must diverge from their expected behavior for each author to engage with a certain sense of realism. Therefore neither exist as a wholly good, or wholly bad example: Fantomina is seemingly an example of the consequences of female desire, yet refuses to submit to shame or repentance; and Pamela is seemingly an example of perfect virtue, yet eventually submits to her desire. The characters may only exist as true examples when exhibiting these flaws that distance them from their assumed example. The true example is in how each protagonist overcomes the stereotype that society forces upon them. Both Fantomina and Pamela, to different extents, do not exhibit the example they are supposed to. Yet, the examples they do display, of independence and consistence of virtue, are made more ‘powerful’ in effect, as they must steadily struggle against social expectation. Without these flaws that differ from their expected example, the characters would be in a conduct book, and not a romance.

Bibliography Ballaster, R., Seductive Forms: Women’s Amatory Fiction from 1684 to 1740 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992)

Doody, M. A., The Cambridge Companion to the Eighteenth Century Novel ed. by John Richetti (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)

Gwilliam, T., Samuel Richardson’s fictions of Gender (California: Stanford University Press, 1993)

Haywood, E., Fantomina: or, Love in a Maze (London: Black Swan)

Richardson, S., Pamela; Or, Virtue Rewarded (Oxford: OUP, 2001)

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Human Weakness in the Screwtape Letters

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Throughout history there have been no shortages of western Christian writers. In a field so competitive, only those who have created work that is theologically influential are remembered by the masses. Martin Luther is remembered for crafting the 95 theses, a simple list of demands that sparked a divide between Protestantism and Catholicism. Dante Alighieri is remembered for producing The Divine Comedy, a literary work that, while not necessarily theologically accurate, was so original and influential that over 700 years later it is still being studied. C.S. Lewis, not one to be outdone by history, wrote The Screwtape Letters, a work so rich in theological content and so refreshingly original that to call it a classic would be a disservice; it deserves a far greater title. By portraying the devil’s perspective on humanity, Lewis was able to provide criticisms on the Church, Christianity, and the culture that became so influential in modern day theology. The writing of this novel was executed in epistolary form, a compositional risk that gave the work originality. The content of the book is also original, centering around a correspondence between two demons, Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood. Amidst this originality, Lewis brings one very original perspective to light: Lewis’s own insight into the weakness of man. Through exploration of several human urges such as sex, gluttony, and fear, Lewis exposes the raw weaknesses of mankind while also including how these urges can be overcome through virtue and faith.

Screwtape advises Wormwood to utilize sex to draw the man away from God by preying upon his natural urges and suppressing his other tendencies. The question of the virtues of sex is often a confusing matter for those involved in the church because of the seemingly backwards logic that discourages the act. Sex is, after all, the reason humans are able to reproduce, so demonizing the act would be demonizing a human urge. On the other hand, sex in almost every major religion is discouraged unless the party is in a committed monogamous relationship, leaving many confused on how to approach this topic. Lewis, through Screwtape, is able to voice his own opinion on the matter, championing the idea that sex was meant for only monogamous committed relationships. This idea is not an original one; it lines up well with the official position of the Church. However, Lewis provides a logical explanation for his belief, allowing for him to appeal to both the theist and the atheist alike.

Screwtape makes it clear that sex in itself is not a bad thing, he even goes to lengths to describe how he hates the fact that humans glean “pleasure from this action” (Lewis 102). However, he points out that by changing the nature of sex, one can utilize sex to draw man away from God. Screwtape advises that sex be indulged when man is at his least energetic state; this paradoxical suggestion is explained in a later quote. Screwtape explains that “The attack has a much better chance of success when the man’s whole inner world is drab and cold and empty. And it is also to be noted that the trough sexuality is subtly different in quality from that of the peak–much less likely to lead to the milk and water phenomenon which the humans call ‘being in love’” (Lewis 43). The goal of this attack is to construe sex as a remedy for pain instead of an act of love–in essence, to corrupt the original meaning. Lewis makes note not to demonize sex, since he continually understands it as the physical manifestation of the metaphysical idea of love. He does, however, warn of losing the meaning of sex, leading to the sin which man might commit.

Lewis does not take such liberties to approve of sex before marriage or sex with multiple partners; he even has Screwtape talk of the normalization of casual sex as a great victory, saying “…By persuading the humans that a curious, and usually short-lived, experience which they call ‘being in love’ is the only respectable ground for marriage;…a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding” (Lewis 93). The phenomenon which Screwtape refers to as ‘being in love’ is implied to be the thrill of casual sex or sexual experiences with multiple people, yielding a fleeting feeling that fails to hold up in the long run. At the same time, Lewis makes sure not to demonize sex, continually speaking of how it is a pleasurable act created by God and explaining that the sin lies not within sex but rather with how it draws man into a dangerous, self-medicating path. By exploiting man’s natural urge for sex, Lewis exposes a weakness in man, the temptation of sex and how it can be spun to lead man down a negative path.

While Lewis’s remarks on sex were original, attacking sex as a sin is a common motif in theological writing. Ironically enough, casual sex was never mentioned as one of the seven deadly sins (while gluttony was), yet church doctrine opposes sex far more than it opposes gluttony. Lewis, in seeing the opportunity, spearheaded a movement of temperance in The Screwtape Letters, arguing of the evils of gluttony and the expansive nature of gluttony. The first of these is the often-remembered version of gluttony, dubbed by Screwtape the “Gluttony of Excess” (Lewis 87). An extension of this gluttony, commonly known as materialism, is first utilized by Wormwood himself in the beginning of the novel. Wormwood attempts to keep his man entrenched in materialism in an attempt to keep him away from God (Lewis 1). Materialism is an issue found in both the spiritual and secular world, with many writers driving home the themes of remembering what truly matters and realizing that possessions are worthless. Lewis, however, points out that to indulge in materialism is to indulge in one of the seven deadliest sins.

Gluttony of excess is the best known type of gluttony, but is hardly the only type. Screwtape tells of a separate gluttony which he advises Wormwood to utilize. This “gluttony of delicacy” is then mentioned as being more potent than gluttony of excess due to its deceptive nature. Screwtape offers an anecdote in which a woman who does not eat or drink in excess is still a slave to gluttony, as she is so particular with her food that she refuses to eat except when it is prepared in the manner she requests (Lewis 87). This type of gluttony is extremely difficult to identify because it is often found when one attempts to go against the gluttony of excess. Screwtape points out that the woman would certainly be found in shock once she realized that the sin she took so many pains (as well as pained others) to avoid was actually being indulged during these attempts (Lewis 88). While at times it may be questionable to the reader as to whether or not this “gluttony” truly constitutes as a sin, Screwtape continues to laud the effort because of it’s difficulty to detect. As he explains, “The real value of the quiet, unobtrusive work which [the demon] has been doing for years on this old woman can be gauged by the way in which her belly now dominates her whole life. This woman is in what may be called the ‘All-I-want’ state of mind. All she wants is a cup of tea properly made or an egg properly boiled, or a slice of bread properly toasted. But she never finds any servant or any friend who can do these simple things ‘properly’–because her ‘properly’ conceals an insatiable demand for the exact, and almost impossible, palatal pleasures which she imagines she remembers from the past” (Lewis 88). Through these two paradoxical versions of gluttony, Lewis points out that this is not a weakness man can easily avoid. It can be exploited in almost every form imaginable.

Yet while gluttony does seem to be difficult to avoid, Lewis then points out a weakness that is truly unavoidable. Fear is brought up several times in the novel as a weapon to draw man away from God. Unlike the other two vices, which are specifically addressed in certain letters, fear is present throughout the entire novel because of its versatility. The old adage “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself” rings true here; the actual fear does not cause the sin, but the fear of confronting the various fears mentioned causes man to get wrapped up in sin. The first example comes from the fear of the unknown, specifically when discussing the fear of the unknown in regards to the sciences. Many people studying in the sciences would affirm that there is a vast amount of information that science cannot explain yet. Because of this reality, Screwtape advises a discouragement of deep studies of the sciences, claiming “they will positively encourage [a man] to think about realities he can’t touch or see” (Lewis 4). Should the patient study sciences such as biology or physics in great detail, he would affirm the vast amount of knowledge that he does not know and will not know in his lifetime. This would shatter the illusion that the sciences could explain everything, forcing man to confront the fear of the unknown and possibly putting him in a situation where he would accept that some things are beyond mortal knowledge, making man receptive to God. This in itself spawns a new argument in which science is not utilized to disprove God, but rather is affirmed by faith. This is a relatively new argument, one still not completely accepted by some theologians, but was revolutionary for Lewis’s time. Screwtape’s advisement to Wormwood reminds the second devil that learning too much science would counter their goals; instead, they must keep the patient with only a surface-level understanding. In this way, the fear of the unknown can be manipulated into keeping man from God.

More examples of the manipulation of fear can be found throughout the novel. Screwtape advises Wormwood to utilize the fear of judgement several times in order to lead his patient astray. Early on when the patient converts to Christianity, Wormwood is told to take advantage of man’s natural fear of judgment by exploiting the judgment of Christians (Lewis 10). By fearing the way the people would react to him joining the church, the patient would be put off and would potentially not join the church, rather than facing his fear. While facing the fear would allow the man to shatter this fear quite easily, the path of least resistance would be to not attend the church at all and to continue to care about facing the fear. Fear of judgment again appears when the patient encounters friends that lived against his customs, such as drinking in excess: indeed, fear of judgment from them for not taking part in these customs and fear of judgment from them should he reject them as friends eventually caused the patient to break his customs and live as they did (Lewis 105). By breaking his customs, the patient did not need to face his fear of the judgment of his friends. Finally, fear of judgment from God himself is used, as the patient would not feel worthy in his presence after living in his sinful manner. Rather than atone for his sins and face his fear, the patient would rather distract himself by not atoning for his sins and slowly leaving God (Lewis 107). In all of these examples, the reaction to the fear of judgment is a means of making man leave God, with the fear itself not being an issue. In fact, the fear could act as a catalyst to further propel the patient towards God, but the fear of the fear of judgment causes the patient to fall in line with the devil’s plan.

While Lewis did expose the many weaknesses of mankind and how they could be exploited to draw man away from God, he also provides a relatively simple solution to circumvent the weaknesses prevalent in humanity. Screwtape would express frustration and anger with Wormwood whenever his patient would partake in virtue and deepened faith in God, as these measures would cause him to overcome his weaknesses. The love that the patient felt for God was mirrored in the love he felt for his eventual wife: the two were able to get married and avoid sexual temptation. When the patient began congregating with other believers and his wife, he was able to hold his own emotions in moderation enough to stave off bouts of gluttony. And with God, not fear, as the focus of the patient’s life, the patient was able to overcome the various different types of fear Wormwood attempted to exploit.

Lewis, in writing The Screwtape Letters, attempted to go where perhaps only two other authors (Alighieri and Milton) went before in explaining the demon world to man. At the same time, he attempted to author a profound theological work, one that would become influential to modern day Christianity. Such an undertaking was ambitious, to say the least. In his attempt to author a theologically sound work, Lewis exposed several key weaknesses of man, discussing human susceptibility to sex, gluttony, and fear, as well as how to conquer these influences through virtue and faith.

Work(s) Cited

Lewis, C. S. The Screwtape Letters. S.l.: Bles, 1961. Print.

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The Logic of Human Morality: Connections Between the Screwtape Letters and “Bulverism”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Throughout the book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis addresses the topics of Christian morality with a twist: it’s written from the perspective of devils. The Screwtape Letters is narrated by Screwtape, an elder devil who is teaching the ropes to his nephew, Wormwood. Screwtape mulls on topics such as human nature and human virtue among other things, and by doing so, he talks about things that are good along with things that are evil. If a reader is to look closely into some of C.S. Lewis’ works, they would find that many similar themes and motifs show up in his works. In his short essay “Bulverism,”Lewis generally speaks about the logical misconception of assuming that a person is wrong without discussion and then explaining how that person became silly based on their background. Within The Screwtape Letters, Letter 19, Wormwood has certain questions for Screwtape and these questions waver from whether love is a good thing or if God really loves humanity. The Screwtape Letters and “Bulverism” bring about many comparable topics, but the most significant theme that occurs within both works is the act of moving the patient away from the “enemy” or God. Within The Screwtape Letters, the example would be Screwtape guiding Wormwood and telling him how he should go about seducing his patients to move them more towards the Devil. Looking closely at “Bulverism,” a person basically fails to address the primary tasks or questions at hand and instead they deal with the secondary questions, thus avoiding the main question and evading basic reasoning. And in turn, this fulfills our lives with artificial truths which moves us further away from logical thinking and from the grasp of the “enemy” or God.

In most of Lewis’ works, he is critiquing a worldview that is prevalent in our world and addressing an issue that is counter-productive to our society. The Screwtape Letters is a compilation of life tips and advice on how to move a patient more towards the Devil and away from God. All throughout Letter 19, Screwtape is adamant by saying it is heresy to believe in the existence of love, but love should not really matter to the patient because both God and Satan will try to pull the patient towards their respective grasps, no matter their view on love. Screwtape also insists that all beings are in competition with each other, by nature, so how do we know if God really loves us? Screwtape supports his claim by stating, “The truth is I slipped by mere carelessness into saying that the Enemy really loves the humans. That, of course, is an impossibility.”(Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, 239) And this reiterates the point that God is a being just like us and his love is a pretext for an unknown desire. This excerpt connects to “Bulverism” in the way that, Screwtape only thinks this way about God because he is a devil and his worldview makes him believe that God follows his selfish impulses and only cares about himself. Screwtape remains contradictory in his thinking and once again states, “You complain that my last letter does not make it clear whether I regard being in love as a desirable state for a human or not.”(Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, 240) In order to connect this quote back to “Bulverism”, we have to know that Screwtape is not reasoning or even clearly stating his view on love to Wormwood. By not thinking pure thoughts, Screwtape himself is a victim of bulverism and becomes closer with the Devil.

To help illuminate on what Lewis is saying in Screwtape Letters about conditioning the patient and bringing him further away from God’s light, a reader can look back on his work about “Bulverism” and can gather some knowledge from that work. Lewis states, “Until Bulverism is crushed, reason can play no effective part in human affairs.”(Lewis, Bulverism, 486) To explain this quote, Lewis is basically saying that when we bulverize someone, we are essentially attacking their identity in an argument and saying they are wrong because of who they are as a person which leads to illogical and ridiculous arguments that never solve the main issue. Essentially, the reasons and motives as to why people act the way they do formulates into their beliefs, ideals and what they believe to be true, according to Lewis. Lewis once again makes a good point by saying, “So we see there is justification for holding on to our belief in Reason. But can this be done without Theism? Does ‘I know’ involve that God exists?”(Lewis, Bulverism, 486) This piece still holds true to today’s society in the fact that all of our minds are influenced by physical events and our thoughts and values are all conditioned by what we have encountered. Bulverism is so frequent in conversations that when we disagree with someone, it is the first methodology we use, and we end up using fallacious arguments instead of discussing the topic and thinking about it logically. Bulverism basically means that one patient is assuming the other patient is completely wrong and they go out of their way to explain their thoughts around the one patient being wrong while never addressing the argument itself. As “Bulverism” reiterates, all of our immediate experiences depend on our inferences but if these experiences “condition” the patient to think lesser of God and higher of Satan then this point correlates with what C.S. Lewis said in The Screwtape Letters and everything comes full circle.

Taking a closer look into Letter 19 within The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape revises his opinion on God and figures God doesn’t care about people because he is a being himself and all beings are in competition. Even though the bulk of the letter focuses on Love, Screwtape thinks it depends on the situation and Screwtape explains, “In the mean-time, get it quite clear in your own mind that this state of falling in love is not, in itself, necessarily favorable either to us or to the other side.”(Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, 241) Screwtape is talking about how falling in love would not be good for either God or Satan and it seems he is encouraging Wormwood to stay in a sort of grey area so he does not have to deal with the whole aspect of loving another person and everything it comes with. On the other hand, in “Bulverism” Lewis makes an interesting point by saying that the theory of knowledge would have to be assumed to be valid based off the previous inferences.

In order to know someone as well as possible, you have to know their reasons and motives and this coincides with the earlier topics in The Screwtape Letters in that the patient will act in a certain way based off their reasons and motives from old experiences. Most that look deeper into C.S. Lewis will find more overlay within his works and being able to analyze his work helps you understand his thinking about Christian values and gives you a glimpse into his mind.

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Validity in Interpretation: Merging Experience and Spirits in “The Screwtape Letters”

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

“And anyway, why should the creature be happy?
Your affectionate uncle,
Screwtape” (Lewis 41).

In the preface to The Screwtape Letters, author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis essentially clarifies the target audience of the work: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight” (Lewis, preface). In this epistolary novel, Screwtape, a senior devil, instructs his nephew, and “junior tempter,” in how to effectively capture the soul of his assigned human, who is referred to only by “the patient.” Screwtape thoroughly describes tactics to win over and subconsciously steal the devotion of the patient, leveraging simple and seemingly natural human tendencies which he claims were created by demons. Within this interesting form of narration, all intuitive “morality” becomes reversed, as evil becomes good, good becomes evil, and the patient’s development of virtues is considered fatal. Through such an ironic inversion of traditionally accepted and encouraged values, Lewis illustrates the psychology of human beings and their moral choices as dictated and manipulated by spiritual beings.

All readers of this piece by C.S. Lewis have different beliefs and experiences which shape their interpretation of the text. Perspectives and responses are based on time period, reader gender, whether the reader is Christian, atheist, or another religion, and a general accumulation of beliefs determined by individual experience and upbringing. This idea of endless unique outlooks to every text is described by literary analyst and English professor Ross C. Murfin as the literary criticism of “reader-response,” which raises “theoretical questions about whether our responses to a work are the same as its meanings, whether a work can have as many meanings as we have responses to it, and whether some responses are more valid than others” (Murfin 337). According to reader response critic Wolfgang Iser, readers who are actively seeking to “bring ‘things’ into the text”(Cordell 292) are known as “actual readers.” In accordance with Iser’s take on the reader response theory, there are two different types of readers, the “implied reader, one the text creates for itself,”(Cordell 292) and the “actual reader”(Cordell 292) who applies experience, personal beliefs, and previous knowledge to the text, completing the work’s meaning in doing so. Somewhere between the “implied reader” and the “actual reader” lies the true intended meaning, as one is inspired by the author, and the other by the reader. This research paper will attempt to address the many factors which could influence different interpretations of Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, and how these perspectives reveal intended meaning. I will compare opposing views using secondary criticisms of the novel, two of the most essential predispositions being whether the reader is Christian or atheist. I will also discuss the validity of some views compared to others, and how that is determined. C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters allows for readers to insert their own individual experiences, knowledge, and beliefs into the context of the story in order to effectively convey faults that he often sees in Christian lifestyles.

The notion of spiritual warfare, or the continual struggle of demons to manipulate and conquer individual human devotion, seems utterly absurd to many. From the lens of a reader influenced by a progressive, decreasingly religious society, this idea seems one that only the Christian interpretation of inerrancy, or the belief that everything within the Bible is fundamentally and historically accurate, would uphold. An atheist or nonbeliever could easily pin Lewis’ narrative merely as an accurate description of the human sociological condition, and that the involvement of demons in the midst of common, natural error (or morally neutral action) is completely irrelevant and absurdly false. Because of this, it seems as though the effectiveness of this piece lies within the predisposition of the reader to either the Christian faith or atheism. Lewis does not attempt to convince the unbelieving reader of the legitimacy of his claims in the existence of these demons, but rather writes in a way which very convincingly reveals their existence and practices to the already Christian reader. In reading the series of letters without any background knowledge or experience as a Christian, there seems no support for the claim that these devils dictate the evil that is present in the world.

As someone who has grown up conditioned to believe in the existence of a God and spirits, a physical manifestation of the struggles common in Christianity can be logically justified to me. This is because of my heavy reliance on what I have personally felt and experienced in my life thus far, an interesting human tendency considering our plethora of proven historical and scientific data which would more logically fuel our decisions and beliefs. This divide—experience versus fact, ethereal versus concrete, real versus subjective—is addressed from senior devil to junior as a construct of the Devil himself: “The general rule which we have now pretty well established among them is that in all experiences which can make them happier or better only the physical facts are “Real” while the spiritual elements are “subjective”; in all experiences which can discourage or corrupt them the spiritual elements are the main reality and to ignore them is to be an escapist. Thus in birth the blood and pain are “real”, the rejoicing a mere subjective point of view; in death, the terror and ugliness reveal what death “really means”(Lewis 77). According to Screwtape, the speaker, I have herein just demonstrated that I am victim to his master’s creation of the belief in subjectivity within experience. A categorization of all that occurs, all that physically exists, and all that is thought into a spectrum of reality dependant on our incredibly limited human perspective is fundamentally absurd; this notion is warped by our predisposition to recognize tangibles as more “real” than the thought of our own mental existence and capacity, which enables our rendering this question in this first place and should therefore seem the most concrete reality to exist. Lewis claims that this is one of many myopic human tendencies which Screwtape tells Wormwood the demons created in order to draw the patient further and further from God. Lewis uses the perspective of the tempters or demons to address common flaws he sees in a typical pursuit of faith: “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out” (Lewis 18). This passage is a perfect example of what I see the broad purpose of the piece as a whole to be. Through the ironic perspective of the direct advocates and “creators” of all evil in the world (according to Lewis), he is drawing attention to the harmful Christian practices and habits which he personally believes need to be addressed. In the aforementioned passage, he is essentially saying, “It is funny (or ignorant) how other people always . . .” fill in the blank. Using the Devil as the lens just makes the message that much more powerful, as it is not coming from a fellow judgemental human, but rather the source and creator of the evil itself. In using Screwtape as the narrator, Lewis is simply giving his voice as an author more weight and credibility.

While Lewis attacks certain habits which Christians often fall into, he is also making the point that it is not from our own natural wiring that this happens, but rather from the work of demons like Screwtape and Wormwood. This may seem, depending on upbringing, just an excuse Christians can use for falling short. To a non Christian, this likely does seem more a petty justification for wrongdoing than anything else. Nonetheless, as Lewis uses Screwtape as a creative literary device to further his argument, he also does truly believe in the existence of demons, New York based secondary critic of the novel Adam Lee saying, “Though the book may be intended allegorically, on the whole it leaves little doubt that Lewis genuinely believed that evil spirits existed and were constantly assaulting human minds” (Lee). Regardless of the author’s intended message or personal beliefs, the work will always be seen as differently by all readers. As one New Yorker writer and secondary critic of The Screwtape Letters reminds us, “The novel remains wildly popular because whether or not you agree with Lewis that the Devil is real, the evils promoted by Screwtape—greed, gluttony, pride, envy, and violence—most certainly are” (Cep).

Lewis employs a writing style which allows for the insertion of one’s own experience into the context of what is being discussed. Rather than delve deeply into “the patient’s” life, Lewis merely uses him as a representative of the human race to reveal common Christian mistakes and the Devil’s dictation and manipulation of those mistakes: “When the patient is an adult recently re-converted to the Enemy’s [God’s] party, like your man, this is best done by encouraging him to remember, or to think he remembers, the parrot-like nature of his prayers in childhood. In reaction against that, he may be persuaded to aim at something entirely spontaneous, inward, informal, and unregularised; and what this will actually mean to a beginner will be an effort to produce in himself a vaguely devotional mood in which real concentration of will and intelligence have no part” (Lewis 18). Because the patient is not even given a name, and Lewis does not delve into his personal life but rather focuses on the devil’s part in it, the reader can easily insert him or herself into the patient’s position and recall times that the same or similar instance has occurred in his or her life. Lewis perfectly allows for deep individual and unique response, as the reader will naturally relate all discussions to his or her own life and experiences. As Louise Rosenblatt, a pioneer in reader-response criticism, suggests, “readers transact with the text by bringing in their past life experiences to help interpret the text” (Cordell 298). This response is also very much influenced by emotion in the reader along with experience, Wolfgang Iser recognizing “the simple fact that readers respond to literature on an emotional level and that such responses are important to the understanding of the work” (Cordell 292). When reading the novel, one’s emotional capacity, or the level to which they are naturally emotionally impacted, will inevitably influence their interpretation of the text. Similarly, the level to which the reader relates to the temptation methods employed by the demons will impact emotional response, and therefore overall interpretation of meaning.

With a modern, progressive outlook, one would notice certain unequal portrayals when reading this work. Throughout the novel, sexist undertones can be recognized in Lewis’ character selection, which can be seen simply in a lack in female characters, most noticeably in that all demons mentioned are male. Even in excluding females from such a negative role, there is inherent inequality. However, Lewis also demonstrates considerable awareness of sexual double standards: “It is the business of these great masters to produce in every age a general misdirection of what may be called sexual “taste”. It is all a fake, of course; the figures in the popular art are falsely drawn; the real women in bathing suits or tights are actually pinched in and propped up to make them appear firmer and more slender and more boyish than nature allows a full-grown woman to be. Yet at the same time, the modern world is taught to believe that it is being “frank” and “healthy” and getting back to nature. As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something which does not exist” (Lewis 51). To attribute this unreasonable sexual standard to the work of demons in the early 1940s, whether metaphorically or otherwise, is socially progressive.

At the time during which the novel was written, the existence of God and demons was more widely accepted than in today’s culture. A modern reader, who would have a deeper scientific awareness and a conditioned skepticism of religion, might not become as fully immersed in the work as someone from the 1940s. The novel does however speak to a number of ideas and life struggles which have remained fairly unchanged through the times because of our sociological wiring: “For all readers, regardless of belief, the letters frame human experience as a familiar sequence of trials, from how you take your tea and what parties you attend to the sort of person you choose for a partner and the sort of politics you espouse” (Cep).

Because of the clearly intended audience, the meaning of this work is not as subjective or malleable to the reader’s interpretations as many other novels. Rather, the level of the reader’s understanding, and therefore interpretation, of the piece is determined largely by previous knowledge and experience with Christianity. While an endless amount of interpretations, regardless of background, are possible, the most revealing aspects of the novel can be understood only by a Christian reader. However, while there may be clear meaning intended by the author, the reader response literary criticism suggests that all interpretations are valid, as everyone experiences the text in different ways: “Even if all of our evidence for a certain interpretation comes from the work itself, and even if everyone who reads the text interprets it in the same (as improbable as that might be) it is still we, the readers, who do the interpreting, assigning meaning to the text. Reader response criticism not only allows for, but even interests itself in how these meanings to change from reader to reader and from time to time” (Millikan). The validity of an interpretation is completely and utterly subjective, as every single reader of the novel has a slightly different response and interpretation. The only sound method of judging the validity of one’s interpretation is by comparing it to the original intent of the author. Even still, other interpretations may be valid insight. As Wolfgang Iser puts it, the reader “‘completes” or ‘activates’ the text” and “In a sense . . . becomes the most important element in the reading process, supplanting even the author” (Cordell 292). If this is true, then the significance of author’s original intent is drastically diminished. Regardless, the author’s intent is completely unknown to the reader and is essentially irrelevant, as the reader will interpret the novel however he or she pleases.

The central philosophy of The Screwtape Letters rests on the principle that spiritual forces and beings do exist. Past this, and regardless of belief in this notion, Lewis calls to attention many flaws in the church, Screwtape himself saying that “One of our great allies at present is the Church itself” (Lewis 14). While I see the meaning of the work to be fairly objective and clear, someone with a different take most likely has the same extent of conviction as I do. We naturally see our own respective beliefs or interpretations as objective truth rather than opinion. Because of this innate tendency of stubborn conviction paired with the inevitable wide variation of interpretations for every literary piece, all readers view their own response as the most valid. With this considered, we can conclude that validity of response is extremely subjective and difficult to determine. The the author’s intended meaning is irrelevant to the reader, and the similarity between the author’s intention and the reader’s interpretation rests on the author’s clarity. Ultimately, the reader is very arguably the most essential element in the literary work, engagement filling intentionally left “gaps” (Cordell 299) in the writing. In this case, Lewis’ writing lends itself to easy immersion, the reader naturally assuming the role of Wormwood’s “patient.”

Works Cited

Biddle, Arthur W., and Toby Fulwiler. Reading, Writing, and the Study of Literature. NY: Random House, 1989.

Cep, Casey N. “The Devil You Know.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 16 July 2014. Web. 02 Jan. 2017.

Cordell, Ryan. “Creating Literary Analysis.” Creating Literary Analysis. Creative Commons, 29 Dec. 2012. Web. 28 Dec. 2016.

Delahoyde, Michael. “Reader-Response Criticism.” Washington State University, n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2017.

Lee, Adam. “The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.” Daylight Atheism. Patheos, 15 Aug. 2009. Web. 02 Jan. 2017.

Lewis, Clive Staples. The Screwtape Letters. Oxford, United Kingdom: Geoffrey Bles, 1942. Print.

Millikan, Lauren. “Reader Response Criticism.” Carleton College. Carleton College, 3 Mar. 2011. Web. 26 Dec. 2017.

Murfin, Ross C. ”Reader-Response Criticism and The Awakening.” The Awakening, Kate Chopin. Case Studies In Contemporary Criticism. 2nd Edition. Ed. Nancy A. Walker. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. 291-306.

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Quasi-Hopelessness and Martyrdom in Persian Letters

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Persian Letters seems like a hopeless account lobbying against female empowerment. Starting from each of the wives’ opening letters to Usbek and continuing to Roxana’s death by suicide at the end of the novel, at first glance, these letters reek of despair and cyclical dread for womankind during this time period. However, while these epistles might seem to speak to insurmountable irreparability and impossibility for gender equality, deeper inspection reveals a heavily feminist manifesto circumventing this society. These feminist undertones are largely seen in Roxana’s sacrificial death, as well as the writings about the Female Paradise. But even aside from these plot points, there is a consistent tone of female rights providing an underpinning throughout all of the novel. This alternate, empowering reading encourages unique sources of power for these women; they may not be able to fully escape the hell they are subjected to in an optimal manner, but time and time again, their writings and actions remind readers that female agency is possible, depending on how they look for it.

The wives in The Persian Letters portray a prime example of protofeminity. Usbek’s wives are submissive in every way, but oftentimes, this behavior is purely displayed out of necessity or survival — later on, we learn that this is also related to them carrying on extramarital affairs and wanting the freedom to do so. As humans, they are entirely enslaved and used for their bodies, always having to submit to Usbek’s rule. They are aware of this limiting lifestyle they are forced into as well, with Fatme even dubbing herself “a free woman, by the accident of birth…enslaved by the violence of her love” (46). Each wife has a unique way of dealing with Usbek’s whims and desires while communicating with him.

While writing him, they each display their own unique style and mode of managing him in order to gain maximum freedom; they are acting on every feminist urge and ability they have. They are unable to stand openly for women’s rights or speak out against their injustices, so instead, they use specific, distinctive diction to manipulate Usbek and get their way. Zashi plays the nostalgic lover, reminding him that she is “searching for you all the time, and finding you nowhere” (43) and referencing the moments at which “they” fell in love. Zephis is the damsel in distress, griping to him about “how miserable I am!” and how “all I need is yourself” (44) to bring her happiness again. Fatme takes on the role of the unabashed lover, bordering on resembling Stockholm syndrome at various junctions in her letter. She pines over him and “still [tries] to make a habit of being attractive” (47). Roxana is unlike all of the other wives. She doesn’t write to Usbek until the last year of his escapade, playing hard to get (minus any “play”). Their different approach tactics prove significant because they are acutely aware of every word they say and the order in which they talk to him. These letters at first create concern for the women, and an urgent need to save them from Usbek, who has seemingly brainwashed them; Fatme in letter seven seems especially too far-gone. However, the way they present themselves is actually more a form of agency than anything else. In each letter, a significant amount of buttering up takes place — be it in the form of displaying weakness or withholding communication entirely, so that by the time they need or want something, they’ve swooned or impressed Usbek enough to ask for it. Through their letters to Usbek and their actions at home, it is seen that the power they have at the end of the novel is far greater than the power they were allotted at the beginning, with The Chief Eunuch even stating to Usbek that his “wives have come to think that [his] departure meant complete impunity for them” (270). The shift in the power structure here ends up leading to Usbek’s demise because it provides the wives agency over their own lives. They become characters who are able to manipulate and writhe skillfully within their adverse situations to make the best out of the hand they’ve been dealt. Roxana may not be able to be with the man she loves; Zashi may not be able to be as sexually adventurous as she wishes outside of the company of her slaves (270), but they are able to find nooks and crannies of time to carve out a life they want – given unavoidable and unfortunate circumstances. It is through this hushed, written manipulation that comes off initially disparaging that any of this agency is made possible.

The death of Roxana is sad and disheartening; she must die in order to gain power and happiness. In the midst of the Persian tale about women’s paradise, Zulema states, “we are so wretched that we cannot not want something different…I wish only to die myself…since that is the only way in which I can hope to be separated from you, I shall still find such a separation pleasant” (249). An idea of paradise for women is the exact opposite of what their life on earth is like, which is true of the four wives, as well. Zulema illustrates even in this tale that the only way a woman can attain agency in this society is via suicide. She adopts it as an act of power, and it is highly symbolic that she goes to Heaven afterwards to have her “happiness perpetually renewed” (249). This underscores how female suicide here death provides more joy and freedom opposed to a life in shackles chained to their husbands. It is also meant to lay the framework for Roxana’s suicide. It foreshadows that death by suicide in this time period is not something to be mourned, but something that could be a gateway to new realms of happiness. While suicide is typically thought of as heartbreaking, this changes it into a welcome act of power for women looking for a needed escape in this society.

The biggest source of female power — coming both from the structuring of the novel and the text itself — is found in the last letter from Roxana to Usbek as she poisons herself. Following the feminist motifs rife throughout the rest of the novel, this is not a suicide, it is a sacrifice and act of rebellion. She has manipulated everyone skillfully enough to tell Usbek, “I suborned your eunuchs, outwitted your jealously, and managed to turn your terrible seraglio into a place of delightful pleasures” (280). She is touting her accomplishments and the successful way she has undermined his power while he’s been away. She is akin to civil rights activists and valiant martyrs rather than someone who frivolously or over-emotionally committed suicide, which would have likely been seen as a sign of demented weakness during this time period. While killing herself could be seen as her acting out of desperation or finding an escape from ubiquitous power, the fact that she documents her death and writes to Usbek about it speaks volumes, as she is openly disregarding his authority, efforts, and rule. She acts against the feeling of entrapment felt by many women at the time: They would rather be killed or become martyrs rather than submit to the will of men who advance upon them. Every movement they made in spite of the men who controlled them was actually a movement toward freedom, as they were openly acting against the patriarchy and articulating the basic right of a women’s right to self-determination. She takes this act of suicide and turns it into her last word; the last word that will ever be said in their gender argument entirely. Her death might not have changed the world or granted women more rights than they originally held, but this act of selflessness could be seen as the beginning blueprints for feminism as a movement. Usbek asserts his dominance throughout the novel with his letters — especially the final letters where he gives the First Eunuch “unlimited powers over the entire seraglio” (271). He writes his wives and asserts threats, stating, “it is you who would be caught if I decided to follow the Chief Eunuch’s advice” (133), but Roxana’s last letter reminds Usbek that he is — and has always been — effectively powerless. He has spent years pining over Roxana and trying to control the seraglio and all of his wives, but this letter proves to him — definitively — that he cannot control anything. The irony in this is that he has spent his entire correspondence controlling people and running his society from the outside. In many ways, he was successful, as it would be near impossible to say his wives had wide degrees of freedom, but it is acts such as Roxana’s suicide that remind us how simply out of control he always was.

This is the note Montesquieu wanted to leave us with. The last thing that he wanted to tell us was that a woman felt so shielded by her husband that she had find happiness in the shadows and use her death as a way to escape a hell on earth. Montesquieu didn’t want to give Usbek the last word, didn’t want to give him a chance to explain himself. Throughout The Persian Letters, Montesquieu didn’t allow other people to stick up for themselves or let his wives have a say in their lives. They wrote letters and cunningly expressed their opinions, but he didn’t give them agency or power — rather, they had to find it themselves. His disregard for them is replicated, and dug in even more harshly, by Montesquieu’s — and the wives’ — disregard for him by lack of a final letter. It’s hard not to feel bad for Usbek’s wives and the people they represent, but it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, Usbek’s power is forgotten and undermined by his wives. They found glimmers of hope and unique ways to control him and eventually destroy him. Roxana had to sacrifice herself, but this act of dominance and power over him simultaneously destabilizes patriarchy while asserting female power. It’s hard not to feel bad for them. But it’s similarly hard not to see their actions as immense acts of clever, albeit saddening, power and strides toward eventual gender equality.

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Pamela’s Conflicting Image

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

In eighteenth century England, a prominent social concern arose in regards to one’s social and economic status. Three broad categories of status existed, including the gentry (consisting of aristocrats and nobles), the middle class (consisting of civil servants and merchants), and the lower classes (consisting of craftsmen and farmers). Samuel Richardson displays the tension and emphasis placed upon social and economic classes of eighteenth century England in his novel Pamela: or Virtue Rewarded, as Pamela, an adolescent servant of the lower class is exposed to the aristocratic world through her employment and later marriage to an aristocratic man, Mr. B. Theoretically, it was impossible to climb the social scale in eighteenth century England, but it was not a common occurrence. While it was not so difficult to work one’s way inside a social group, actually jumping to another, higher, social group was more difficult and rarely achieved if not by a fortunate marriage, like Pamela. This immense social contrast and tension between Pamela and Mr. B.’s environment exemplifies the transformation of Pamela’s perception of herself from being lowly and poor, to her new position in the aristocratic class once she is married.

Another social concern, predominantly within the female community, included the need to maintain or defend one’s virtue. Samuel Richardson portrays the heavy influence of social class upon Pamela, which strengthens the assertion that her true intention for defending her virtue is to advance up the social scale. Pamela describes extensively the low value of her clothing to incite pity, and to support the proud image of poverty in which she has for herself. She describes the clothes her lady gave her as “too rich and too good for me, to be sure” (Richardson 18). When Pamela plans to return to her impoverished parents, she buys “a good sad-colour’d Stuff” from farmers in order to better fit into their social and economic class. By describing the clothes as “sad,” she invites readers into her association of poverty with feelings of displeasure and sorrow. However, once she is married to Mr. B., a wealthy aristocrat, she elaborately describes the fine clothing she has started to wear again: “And so put on fine Linen, silk Shoes, and fine white Cotton Stockens, a fine quilted Coat, a delicate green mantua silk Gown and Coat, a French Necklace, and a lac’d Head, and Handkerchief, and clean gloves… but I forgot not to thank God, for being able to put on this Dress with so much comfort” (Richardson 303). This event discredits everything she had once said about her poor, sad clothing, as well as her longing to return to her comfortable, familiar lifestyle with her parents in poverty.

It is through Pamela’s desire for fine clothing and its connection to high social class that calls to question Pamela’s true intentions of saving her virtue. The word “poor” is not only used to describe Pamela’s clothing but also her life before her marriage into the aristocratic sector of society, in which she prides herself on, as well as the low social status of her parents. The use of her poor status in life craftily disguises Pamela’s reasoning for protecting her virtue, in the presence of Mr. B. and her parents. Pamela writes to her parents, “I owe everything, next to God’s Goodness, to your Piety and good Examples, my dear parents, my dear poor parents, I will, because your Poverty is my Pride, as your Integrity shall be my Imitation” (Richardson 54). When she is to be married to Mr. B., whom requests her to go back to using the fine clothes she used before she thought she was to return to her parents, Pamela replies: “I will beg of you, Sir, not to let me go fine in Dress; but appear only so, as that you may not be ashamed of it” (Richardson 265). Pamela, then, even though she will be elevated to the upper class does not appear to think that she deserves to show this too well. She again remembers the humble background she comes from. However, this persona changes as she is exposed to the female members of the aristocratic world.

Upon Pamela’s entering the upper class, her modest and proud attitude diminishes, which exposes her true intent of guarding her virtue in order to join and be accepted into a high social class. Pamela is drawn into this lavish social world and disregards her humble beginnings, which is exemplified after a woman of the upper class, Lady Towers, compliments her. Pamela writes of her response, “Dear good Madam, said I, how shall I suitable return my acknowledgements! But it will never be a Pain to me to look back upon my former Days now I have the kind of Allowance and Example of so many worthy Ladies to support me in the Honours to which the most generous of men has raised me” (Richardson 491). Pamela’s adoration to the neighboring aristocratic women illustrates her ambition to rise in social status as she now considers herself a gentlewoman. However, Pamela also receives negative remarks by aristocratic women, most notably through an interaction with Mr. B.’s sister, Lady Davers. Lady Davers requests to talk to Pamela, stating, “I will see the Creature” and “Bid the Wench come down to me” (Richardson 380). Despite Pamela’s new arrival to the aristocratic class through marriage, Lady Davers still does not view Pamela as an equal due to her past experiences in the lower class. This harsh judgment portrays the great differences in treatment due to one’s social or economic status. Pamela was once a part of the lower class, thus other members of the aristocratic class will never treat her as a completely aristocratic woman, despite her virtuosity.

Pamela is heavily affected by the tension and pressure to maintain her virtue and advance up the social scale. The wide gaps between social classes cause Pamela’s persona of humbleness and meekness to shift to one of boldness and confidence, which uncovers her veiled intention to save her virtue in hopes of becoming an aristocratic woman. Pamela succeeds in this intention as she marries Mr. B., ultimately indicating the substantial impact of eighteenth century society upon an individual of the lower class.

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Virtue in Pamela

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

In Pamela, Samuel Richardson teaches a religious lesson through Pamela’s pride in virtue, love through purity, and ultimately forgiveness of others. He presents his character as rigorously devoted to God, which often makes her seem vain, manipulative, selfish, and hypocritical. Although she may seem to portray these characteristics, the truth is all that matters to her is her virtue.

Throughout the novel, Pamela portrays a pious pride in her virtue and humility. In the novel, she is extremely proud, not of the beauty of her face or body, but of virtue, which she protects in the name of God. She equates losing her virtue as “worse than cutting her Throat” (104). Richardson demonstrates a lesson through Pamela’s pride in virtue, showing the other characters that purity and righteousness will always prevail. Pamela’s virtue even opens the blind eyes of the Squire when he exclaims, “Her Virtue is all her Pride, shall I rob her of that?” (211). Although she might be mistaken as vain when she tries on her humble attire and professes, “I never lik’d myself so well in my Life” (60), Richardson uses this to show how Pamela is happy in her poverty because it is honest and virtuous. She is proud of the honesty of her low birth because she sees much vanity in the wealthy as exhibited by Lady Davers. After reading the letter concerning Pamela’s inequality to the Squire’s birth, Pamela becomes furious at Lady Davers for stooping to “such vain Pride” (222). Pamela prays that God will not let the “Conceitedness, Vanity, and Pride” (279) of wealth consume her. Her pride in virtue is an honorable pride because it focuses on God, whereas, the pride she fears is centered on status and wealth. Pamela demonstrates tremendous pride in her honesty and virtue, focusing on the ideals of God.

Pamela’s pride in her virtue eventually gains her the pure love of the Squire as oppose to his former lust. Pamela’s protection of her virginity blossoms into a virtuous love, her reward from God. Throughout the text, Pamela persistently denies the Squire’s passions, through harsh words and actions. Her virtue only makes her more attractive to him: “I see you so watchful over your Virtue . . . my Passion for you is only increas’d by it” (184). She believes that a woman who gives in to evil and loses her virginity to be “the vilest of Creatures” (174). Pamela perceives her honesty with such importance to say, “my Honesty is dearer to me than my Life” (208). After her fits when he tries to rape her, the Squire finally realizes how important virtue is to Pamela. He learns to love and respect her through her virtue. In the end, the Squire recognizes Pamela as equal to his noble birth because of her virtue: “Let us talk of nothing henceforth but Equality; for if you will set the Riches of your Mind, and your unblemished Virtue, against my Fortune, the Condescension will be yours” (294). Pamela seems manipulative because she benefits from her virtue, increasing her social status. Although the reward for virtue in Pamela is marriage, Richardson shows that Pamela never dreams of this outcome, believing a “poor Servant is far unworthy of this great honour” (209). She continually thanks God for such an honor, seeing it as a reward from Him for all her sufferings at the Squire’s hands. Because of her virtue, Richardson shows that God rewards Pamela with a very honorable marriage.

Pamela, through her trust in God, finds the heart to forgive those who have threatened her most prized possession, her virtue. Although the Squire terrifies Pamela numerous times, sexually harassing her and trying to rape her, she finds it in her heart to forgive him. The Squire finally sees the error of his ways, begging, “tell me you forgive me for rushing you into so much Danger and Distress” (209). The actions he has inflicted upon her are horrendous, but she forgives him in spite of the pain and suffering he has caused her. She has such a “great Point of Reliance in God” (235) that she begins to trust a man that formerly terrified her, even learning to love him through forgiveness and innocence. Pamela sometimes seems selfish and hypocritical in her hasty forgiveness of the Squire in the face of a proposed marriage. Her opinion of him seems to change too abruptly, showing her selfishness for bettering her life and her hypocrisy for loving a man she once did not respect in the slightest. On the other hand, Richardson portrays Pamela’s forgiveness under the sanction of God, who dictates that everyone is to be forgiven. Pamela is so sweet and virtuous that she also forgives the “most wicked Woman” (177), Mrs. Jewkes. Although Mrs. Jewkes assisted in her attempted rape, Pamela finds it in her pure heart to forgive even this “vile” (177) woman. Through her happiness with the Squire, which she attributes to God, she finds it in her heart to “forgive all that was disagreeable” (255). Pamela’s virtue leads the way towards the forgiveness of those who tried to ruin her.

In Pamela, Richardson’s lesson through Pamela is to be proud of virtue because, in the end, God will reward it like He rewards her with love and happiness. Richardson also points out that she should forgive everyone that posed an obstacle to her virtue because those people only made her path of righteousness more difficult and, therefore, more rewarding. Although Pamela often appears to be vain, manipulative, selfish, and hypocritical, she is merely trying to live through God by retaining her most sacred possession, her innocence.

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