The inseparability of letters and the body in Pamela

In volume 2 of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, there’s a clearer picture of the inseparability of Pamela’s letters and her own body— entities Mr. B wants to possess.

Writing letters involves the mind and of course emotions and therefore, there tends to be decision-making in the picture. So, when Pamela wrote to her parents about the hardships she had to endure after Mr. B’s continuous attempts to rape her, her struggle to go home or to send letters to Mr. Williams in volume one, she did not allow her employer to control her or rape her by not allowing him to possess her letters and tell her who to talk to or what to write or not to write at all. Instead, in volume 2, she stitched the letters to her clothes to say “no” to Mr. B’s intrusion of her thoughts and body. On page 234, Mr. B said, “I have searched every place above, and in your closet, for them, and cannot find them, so I will know where they are. Now, said he, it is my opinion they are about you; and I have never undrest a girl in my life; but I will not begin to strip my pretty Pamela; and I hope I shall not go far before I find them.” She responded, “I will not be used in this manner,” which tells readers that she will not allow him to achieve his desires without her permission. Also, Mr. B’s quote revealed the unity of her letters and body when he mentions undressing her to find the “letters” as if alluding to the fact that he cannot get to the body without getting to her mind and emotions first. And that’s true because the letters are stitched to her clothes. Mr. B’s quote on page 234 really brings to one’s attention the woman’s power when she says “no.” The epistolary novel genre is an instructive manual after all that in Pamela seems to be used to teach the woman her thoughts, emotions and body are her own to take charge of and if she doesn’t, it could lead to loss of virtue.

On page 238, Pamela gave the letters to Mr. B to avoid more issues and asked him not to break the “seal” as a favor and “great omen.” He “broke the seal instantly” (238). This may seem like simple analysis, but the seal is one that validates her virtue by protecting her letters. Once broken, he has access to her thoughts, emotions and then on, her body. But to further prove this point, notice how she told him not to break the seal as “a great omen,” so that meant that breaking it would lead to a bad omen— her rape. It did in a sense, since he married her at the end of the novel. Still, it wasn’t a bad omen to her though, but rather a good omen because it was true love. On page 246, Mr. B used her own talent against her, sending her a letter that makes her fall in love with him, leading to their union. “This letter… has affected me more than anything of that sort could have done…It look’d like love,” she told her parents (248).

Clothes linked to freedom of identity in Pamela

In volume one of Samuel Richardson’s novel Pamela, there’s an apparent focus on clothing that gradually links to freedom of identity.

When Mr. B gives Pamela his mother’s/her employer’s clothes after her death, the 15-year-old experiences a shift in identity. According to an article by Debra Goss called “Pamela’s Fourth Bundle: Writing and Apparel in Pamela,” clothing was “one of the first commodities to cross gender and class lines,” so it was a norm for a servant to receive her employer’s hand-me-downs. In fact, the article claims that female servants would imitate their mistresses by wearing hoops as these employees directly connected the upper and lower classes. Goss explaons that the hoop petticoat is cited as class mobility in Daniel Defoe’s “Everybody’s Business is Nobody’s Business” and in the Eighteenth century, it became a popular fashion item— one “more fragile than its Elizabethan predecessor, and suited to lighter fabrics like silk, which were coming in from France in abundance.”

Therefore, since female servants bridged the gap between the upper and lower classes, Pamela’s original tattered clothes of poverty free her identity— as she would no longer stand on the border of two classes or on the verge of losing her virtue. That is evident when she starts knitting clothes fit for her poor condition after escaping Mr. B’s third attempt to rape her (Richardson 44). She writes to her parents, “So think I, I had better get myself at once ‘quipt in the dress that would become my condition; and tho’ it might look but poor to what I was us’d to wear of late Days, yet it would serve me, when I came to you” (45).  At the end of her letter, she says that she wishes to appear in her original clothes rather than in her mistress’s because that would mean she “shall be soon after with [her parents] and at ease in her mind, which reveals her plan to free herself from an identity that could result in her losing her virtue.

In a later instance, Pamela divides her clothes into three “parcels”— the clothes her Mistress had given her, clothes Mr. B had given her after her Mistress’s death, and the clothes that represent her condition of poverty at her parents’ house (78). Then, she told Mrs. Jervis to look over her clothes and let others at the house have what belongs to them, so she can take with her only what she “can properly call [her] own” (78). She calls the last bundle the “companion of my poverty” and the “Witness of her honesty,” while she calls the second the would-be “Price of my shame” (79) because of Mr. B’s intention to rape her. Therefore, she gives each bundle of clothes different identities and chooses to keep the one that frees her from harm. However, Mr. B tricks her and imprisons her instead of sending her home. Near the end of the volume, Pamela tries to escape, but fails as the rest of the servants search for her and find her petticoat, hat, and handkerchief in the pond. They at first believe she drowned, but then Nan finds her. Just as Goss states, this scene symbolizes her attempt to free herself by throwing away the clothes Mr. B gave her to reclaim her original identity.

 

Class and Gender Politics in Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina

In her novel, “Fantomina,” Eliza Haywood manipulates what is expected of an eighteenth century man and woman, giving the female and the lower class character dominance over the aristocratic male for the majority of the story and yet ends it as expected with the male in power.

Haywood’s use of women-controlling diction in the beginning forecasts the end of Fantomina’s story. At first, Fantomina, an upper class woman, averted how aristocratic and supposed intelligent men had the audacity to disregard the play and fawn over prostitutes of the lower class at the playhouse. Haywood wrote that as the inexperienced young woman wondered about their actions, her aversion resulted in “curiosity.” Then, Haywood suggests that Fantomina’s curiosity was once suppressed and now freed because she would have been “oblig’d to be accountable for her Actions” if her guardians were in town. She writes that Fantomina did not find fault in dressing up and acting as a prostitute, who makes “sale of [her] favours,” in an effort to gratify “an innocent Curiosity.” This adds on to her freedom as no one could hold her accountable. Thus, words such as obliged, fault, favors, curiosity and gratification expose the representation of females at the time. In the eighteenth century, a woman, no matter the man’s faults, was blamed for both her and his actions, because it’s she who was selling her “favors” to the male and satisfying her “curiosity”— not he who initiated it. Therefore, the ideal woman is the total opposite of Fantomina, but Haywood continues to manipulate the image to expose the male’s faults.

As the story moves on, Haywood reveals the objectification of women— especially the poor. To be a prostitute, Fantomina changed her name, wore promiscuous clothing, and joined the lower class. That shift in total image and class indicates that the rich cannot be seen among the dishonorable— unless they are men objectifying these women. After she became involved with Beauplaisir, a man who had won her affection, she realized her wrongdoing. But, she told him his “Love alone can compensate for the Shame you have involved me in; be you sincere and constant, and I hereafter shall, perhaps, be satisfy’d with my Fate, and forgive myself the Folly that betray’d me to you.” Haywood wrote that Fantomina’s “vivacity and wit” assisted her in everything, but where it was most needed as she became in charge of her personal life, but failed to grasp how harmful sexual activity is to her future. She continued to use that power she found by also controlling Beauplaisir’s life when she found out he would never be faithful to her. She changed her name and disguised herself with different dresses and hairstyles. She fooled Beauplaisir at his own game, which caused a clash in power between genders. The man became submissive to each character she played, but eventually Fantomina lost her own power when she became pregnant and had to fight societal reactions by hiding the truth, but failed to. Her mother wanted Beauplaisir to marry her at first “to repair the supposed Injury you had done this unfortunate Girl,” but no longer did after she found out the truth. “Now I know not what to say: — The Blame is wholly her’s,” she said. Haywood here takes us and her main character back to reality—reiterating that the man is always in power, no matter his faults, while the woman is always held accountable for her faults.