In a nutshell, a young woman manages to keep her virtue intact throughout various trials and as a result nabs a husband who is both wealthy and of relatively high social standing. Thus the subtitle, Virtue Rewarded.
The novel was actually quite popular during the 18th century and people began naming their daughters after Pamela–in admiration for the character or even in hopes that their children will be as “lucky.” In the second half of the novel, Pamela lists no less than 48 points in order to be a good wife, and if that wasn’t good enough, Richardson once again summarized Pamela’s good characteristics at the end.
Pamela has also been regarded as the grandmother of all bodice-rippers, although the modern bodice-rippers often have female characters quite willing to shed their clothes. It’s disconcerting, however, that in the first half of the book, Pamela’s would-be husband is a boor and a rake: he hides in closets to spy on her, attempts rape, reads her private correspondences, kidnaps her, and has an extremely volatile temperament. On the contrary, after he marries her, he’s always described as kind and generous.
Perhaps this was the first crystallization of what women at the time (and most likely probably still) think that they can do–reform men with marriage. But this day in age, especially in western societies, the modern woman would not regard her “virtue” as her sole bargaining chip. Nor would she put up with bad behavior from a mate, let alone a potential one on the first date.
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Three books in one week so far! I haven’t done that in a long time. But I’m not sure how long this streak will last. Before I had put up a blog, I had a relatively large section of reviews for books I had been reading, which of course, nobody visited. I’ve probably mentioned it before numerous times, but the current books I am reading are always listed on the bookrolling page (also can be found under “links”).