John B. Pierce


Removed from her parents, harassed and imprisoned by her employer, nearly driven to suicide, Richardson's Pamela attempts to forge a personal identity that balances conflicting claims of authority. As the novel proceeds, Pamela tries to embody her parents' injunctions and to correct the abuses of aristocratic privilege by Mr B. Her maturing process culminates in a struggle between Mr B.'s will to power over Pamela and her will to profess and practise virtue. Unfortunately, the authority of Pamela's appeals to truth and virtue is threatened by her subordinated roles as adolescent, woman, and servant, roles which pose contradicting claims against a mature male aristocrat. Thus even though her moral stance may be justified by her belief in the correspondence between inward virtue and outward honesty, it is supported by little that is tangible in terms of age, sex, or social status. The only identity, the only authority, and the greatest degree of power she bas are manifest in her writing, a textuality giving voice to an identity Mr B. would willingly debase and silence. A closer examination of the manner in which Pamela invokes different texts--in particular, her own and those of scripture and fable--to strengthen her claims to truth and authority reveals the complexity of the character's and novel's textuality. Mr B.'s charges that she is fabricating a "romance" would take on some merit if she did not write truth, and she would become a temptress, a Lucretia, or a Shamela, manipulating a frustrated lover out of self-interest and caprice. Essentially, Pamela's text as a discourse of authority, as a virtually sacred record of events, manifests personal identity supplemented by sacred and secular texts, and reinforces her personalized claims to textual authority.