Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded

Pamela’s Conflicting Image College

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.

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