Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded

To what extant is the Epistolary style helpful in understanding the character of Pamela?

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Richardson’s intention was to render a profound psychological study by making Pamela’s psyche as immediate to the reader as possible through the comparatively unfiltered record of her spontaneous thoughts and feelings. One limitation of this method is the difficulty for the reader of separating objective truth from Pamela’s inevitably subjective (and often over-hasty) representations of it: her nightmare portraits of Mrs. Jewkes and Monsieur Colbrand are the most conspicuous instances, and Mr. B.’s psyche, while immeasurably more important than either of these, remains distressingly opaque during the crucial period of his moral transformation. In the second half of the novel, both the action and Pamela’s subjective turmoil subside considerably, and accordingly Richardson alters his use of the epistolary mode: Pamela largely abandons her “writing to the moment” in favor of more retrospective compositions that are closer to “the colder and more general Reflections” of the narrative tradition against which Richardson had set himself.