Pamela isn't some rom-com that leaves its happy couple that the altar. Nope, Richardson has some Very Important lessons to teach us all about marriage, too, and so the novel offers lots of reflections upon marriage, particularly among members of the gentry. In the eighteenth-century, people didn't just get married because they liked each other a whole lot, especially the gentry: they got married to have children, consolidate their wealth and power, and fulfill the gendered expectations of aristocratic life. The second part of Pamela lets us peek into the rights and duties of marriage life, and it's making us pretty glad we live in the twenty-first century. (Spoiler alert: the women have it worse.)
Questions About Marriage
- What are some of Richardson/Pamela's attitudes toward marriage that we would find upsetting or troubling? How does class affect these attitudes?
- Pamela has some serious butterflies before her marriage. Why does Richardson spend so much time and ink depicting those jitters?
- Mr. B and Pamela's marriage breaks from convention and tradition in some ways. Do you buy the claim that their example could have a larger impact on attitudes toward marriage in their community? If so, what would the nature of that change be?
Chew on This
Richardson spends a lot of time meditating on Pamela's cold feet to highlight the seriousness of the institution of marriage, which is a major moment of backpedaling from the novel's early references to the institution.
By choosing their own partners according to (apparently) non-economic criteria, Mr. B and Pamela revolutionize the way their friends think about marriage.