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Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded – Sexuality and the Morally Didactic Novel

Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded – Sexuality and the Morally Didactic Novel

We have difficulties as a modern audience appreciating the social anxieties reflected in Pamela, especially those surrounding morality and valuation of individuals within the social framework. The radical stance of even using phrases such as virtue and ‘fortune’ to denote Pamela’s virginity are themselves loaded with a questioning of the social stratification in which she resides. The term ‘Fortune’ is perhaps the most playful but problematic. In it the issue of the commodification of Pamela’s virginity is implicated, while at the same time gaining its authority within the framework of the novel through a Protestant ethic of internal individual worth apart from social stratification. Complicating this issue of commodification is the range of Marxist or Weberian readings of the novel that place it within a conflict between the working and aristocratic classes. Pamela is explicitly placing value in her ‘protestant ethic’ rather than her social standing, it being “more pride to [her] that [she] come of such honest parents, than if [she] had been born a lady” (Pamela 48) and in the same letter looking disparagingly on her fellow ‘servants.’

My analysis will take as central the moral issues in Pamela, but this is done with a cognizance that how we reflect on Pamela’s morality is also closely related to how we read the economic and social aspects of the novel. There have been many works written in response to Pamela, some attacking the eroticism of the novel and others the social deconstruction it implies; however, the most emphatic is likely to be the Marquis de Sade’s literary response in Justine (1791) and Juliette (1797). As we’ve already seen in “Fantomina,” the erotic novel is not something new to the 18th century, and examples such as John Cleland’s Fanny Hill (1748) provide explicit materials to demonstrate that the pornography and sadism of the day were as explicit as our own. As Shamela illustrates, this erotic aspect of Pamela cannot be overlooked, especially with the physicality of aspects of the letter writing and the reader’s ‘view’ of Pamela’s body through this. David Evans describes this as

the prurience of its pre-occupation with sex disguised as moral guidance, and the travesty of Christian morality involved in showing ‘virtue rewarded’ to mean materially rewarded in this life, not spiritually in the next one.

Writing the Academic Essay

Writing the Academic Essay

For many high school students, the academic essay is an unforgiving monster that terrorizes their campus, a nightmarish beast that can rip the heart out of G.P.A.’s and dash all hopes for college admission. Yet, others tame this friend with ease, bending its cruel will to theirs as if it was nothing, as if they possessed a secret weapon. Well, guess what? They do! Successful essayists succeed because they are armed with the exact knowledge of what an essay is and how it is made; they know an essay is an organized group of paragraphs that strongly assert and vividly support a central idea. Further, they know the organization of an academic essay is as easy as one, two, three: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion are its three essential parts.

For starters then, let us begin with the introduction. Its job is to move from the general to the specific, to introduce the essay’s topic, clarify its central idea, and detail its thesis statement. Yet, before it can do that, it should attempt to “hook” the reader by catching his interest with some appropriate bait. The first way to hook a reader is by centering an original title above the introduction. Please note the word original in that last sentence. Lazy and generic titles like “English Essay” or “Crucible Essay” are not effective because they are neither informative nor interesting. After an original title, a good introduction begins with one or two interesting sentences that serve to focus the essay’s general topic. With that done, the writer becomes more specific and introduces the essay’s central idea. A central idea is simply a clear statement of the writer’s opinion or position on the general topic. In my introduction to this …

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…oes not mean that it is as unstoppable as Godzilla. Indeed, the curse of the essay is quite manageable if one keeps in mind its underlying characteristics. The basic academic essay is five logically related paragraphs that argue and defend a central idea, and the way it is structured is simplicity itself. When the writer keeps in mind the three parts of an essay-the introduction, the body, and the conclusion-then much of the anxiety and confusion associated with essay writing can be vanquished. Like Frankenstein’s creature, essays are put together from separate parts, but because they are composed of logically related ideas, they are an invention that can be tamed by organized thinking. Indeed, writers who plan carefully and follow their plan are pleased to find that their brainchild is no fear-inspiring monster, but rather a creation that reveals their true genius.

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