Study Guide

Pamela Violence

By Samuel Richardson


We gave Pamela an R for its sexual content, but we might have to give it an NC-17 for its violence. There's hand-slapping, shoulder-beating, ear-boxing, attempted rape, and, of course sword-brandishing—which is a lot of the old ultra-violence for a book that's supposed to be about virtue and reform. So, we ask the age-old question: does this violence have a point, or is it just there for effect? Does it help us appreciate the danger Pamela is in, or is it just part of the culture of the time? Shmoop amongst yourselves.

Questions About Violence

  1. Pamela is a relatively violent book, and the first half in particular can be disturbing to read. Why do you think violence is so prevalent? Do you find it gratuitous, or is it crucial to the novel's moral message?
  2. Is violence sensationalized in Pamela? Is it used just to entertain, or does it have a moral message?
  3. Do you buy Mr. B's transition from violent abuser to husband and model Christian? Why or why not? Do you think he'll ever be violent toward Pamela again?

Chew on This

Pamela has to be violent to make it clear how extra-special Pamela is: only her influence can make people stop beating each other (and mostly her) up.

The amount of violence in Pamela is totally unnecessary and gratuitous—it's just eighteenth-century clickbait to keep eyeballs glued to the page.