Marriage in Pamela and Fanny Hill Essay

1757 Words May 10th, 2013 8 Pages
‘Marriage is the only available—and acceptable—option for the eighteenth century heroine’. Is this true?

Class and gender chiefly governed British society in the eighteenth century and the opportunities for a woman to achieve social and financial security were scarce. In this society men of the upper class governed the female identity. This patriarchal climate stipulated that, “a respectable woman was nothing but the potential mother of children” (Blease 7). In the context of eighteenth century British society, this prescribed duty implied marriage first and was shortly followed by procreation and duties relating to family life. Although marriage and maternity provided the only socially acceptable path for women during this time, some
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Her unrepressed attitude toward her sexuality creates a stark contrast with Pamela who repeatedly exclaims that she would rather seek death than the loss of her honesty.
As a pornographic piece of literature, Fanny’s memoir “offers a picaresque of bodies and their parts traveling from one encounter to the next” (Haslanger 164). However at the same time, Fanny’s account depicts a woman forced into prostitution who “did not care what became of my wretched body: and wanting life, spirits, or courage to oppose the least struggle, even that of the modesty of my sex, [and] suffered, tamely, whatever the gentleman pleased” (Cleland 46). Under the guise of an erotic novel, Cleland employs Fanny Hill to comment on the social and sexual stratification present in British society. Cleland takes a progressive approach toward sexuality throughout the text. Firstly, in that he acknowledges the sexual desire of his heroine during a time when female sexuality was strictly repressed. Secondly, Cleland suggests that sexual encounters span the void between the social classes. Fanny claims that “the talent of pleasing, with which nature has endowed a handsome person, formed to me the greatest of all merits; compared to which, the vulgar prejudices in favour of titles, dignities, honours, and the like, held a very low rank indeed” (Cleland 61). Thus Cleland asserts that the superfluous titles, etc. that distinguish

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