The Redeemable Mr. B

Reevaluating ‘Reward’ in Samuel Richardson’s Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded.

Joshua M. Patton

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In Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, Or Virtue Rewarded, much attention is often paid to the characterization of Pamela herself and how it reflects Richardson’s opinions about women and their virtue. Pamela’s character is surely meant to be a model to the young women of the day, yet she also serves as a model to present-day readers. Rather than see her as someone to be emulated, present-day readers often see her as a representation of all women forced to endure the simultaneous sexual repression and sexual aggression of patriarchal 18th-Century England. In either context, Mr. B is a villain. He assaults her, violates her privacy at almost every turn, and even kidnaps her, the fear she uses to describe him in the book easily justified. Modern readers can’t help but pity the poor dear when upon B’s proposal of marriage, she relents and claims to love this monster. However, as stated in the preface, if one of the purposes of this text was to “paint Vice in its proper Colours, to make it deservedly Odious, and to set Virtue in its own amiable Light, to make it truly Lovely,” then I suggest that Mr. B’s narrative arc represents the pathway from vice back to virtue and that he is perhaps the character most rewarded at book’s end (Richardson 5).

Mr. B’s life is greatly affected by the women in it. His mother’s death begins the occasion for the story. I can only speculate about Mr. B’s role in the family before her death, but his behaviors after his mother’s death are more those of a petulant youth than the patriarch of a genteel family. When Lady Davers so involves herself into her brother’s affairs, with respect to Sally Godfrey or his marriage to Pamela, it is safe to intuit that perhaps the ambitious older sister took a far more active role in quieting the disturbances of Mr. B’s youth than either of his parents (Richardson 480). When Pamela meets Miss Goodwin, Mr. B asks if Pamela will “allow me to love this little Innocent?” (Richardson 478). This is an interesting question, because to this point in the story Mr. B has seemingly made his decisions on his own, no matter how questionable they may be. He kidnaps Pamela rather than send her home, falsely imprisons Mr. Williams (a clergyman, no less), and plans a false marriage ceremony to fool Pamela…

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Joshua M. Patton

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