The Virtuous Pamela of Virtue Rewarded
Samuel Richardson began his literary career when two booksellers offered him the opportunity to amass a publication for unskilled letter writers. While preparing this volume, a small sequence of letters from a young lady asking her father's counsel when endangered by her master's advances, entranced him. His enthrallment resulted in a shift in his work. The result was the tome Pamela; Or, Virtue Rewarded. The book has been subject to much inquiry. One such question critics ask is if the main character, Pamela Andrews, is truly virtuous or a convincing hypocrite. By understanding the character of Pamela, one must conclude Pamela is a truly virtuous young lady.
First, Pamela regards her virtue very highly. In the first letter from her parents, they write, "...the loss of our dear child's virtue would be a grief that we could not bear (46)." Throughout many of their following letters, her parents continue to warn her to be on guard of her virtue. Furthermore, as a poor girl, Pamela's virtue was all she had to offer a future spouse. In one letter, she tells of an account with Mr. B. In this account she says, "For heaven's sake, your honour, pity a poor creature, that knows nothing, but how to cherish her virtue and good name: I have nothing else to trust to (62)." After escaping captivity, she contemplates taking her life before renouncing her virtue.
Moreover, Pamela's virtue stems from her being a devout Protestant Christian. Throughout her letters, Pamela refers to Scripture over thirty times. Furthermore, she calls upon God numerous times in prayer. Moreover, after kidnapping Pamela, Mr. B. detains her for six weeks. Throughout her captivity, Pamela laments not being able to go to church. In addition, one knows she is Protestant rather than a Catholic because she cites Protestant works such as John Foxe's "Book of Martyrs"(109) and Richard Allestree's "Whole Duty of Man (494)."
As a Protestant, Pamela's ethical standard would be the Bible. The Bible teaches premarital sex is an offense against God and fornicators will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (1 Corinthians 7). Furthermore, Jesus says that any man that looks on a woman to lust commits adultery in his heart (Matthew 5). A devout Christian in Richardson's time would understand these commands in the strictest sense. This would forbid such activities as kissing and "mammary explorations." Even non-Christians would recognize a Christian would be against these activities. The burden of these commands would weigh heavy of Pamela's heart.
Second, when Mr. B. attacks her with his violent passion, Pamela is truly upset. After Mr. B....