Jul 152012
 

Ana wakes up with Christian gone again. She meets his housekeeper, Mrs. Jones, and goes into another jealous snit over nothing.

Why does Christian only have attractive blondes working for him? And a nasty thought comes involuntarily into my mind – Are they all ex-subs?  I refuse to entertain that hideous idea.

When she finds him in his study, she thinks:

He is without a doubt the most beautiful man on the planet, too beautiful for the little people below, too beautiful for me.
No my inner goddess scowls at me, not too beautiful for me. He is sort of mine,  for now.

This furthers the class politics subtext: Ana apparently does think of the world in terms of little people down there, and big important people like Christian Grey. By that logic, who would choose to be the former when you could be the latter, if only by association? Note also that when they are apart, Christian is off doing big important things in the realm of business.

There’s a quick vanilla fuck across Christian’s desk.

“What the hell are you doing to me?” he breathes as he nuzzles my neck. “You completely beguile me, Ana. You weave some powerful magic.”

It’s hard not to read this cynically and say that Christian is flattering Ana. Over breakfast, Christian once again attempts to control every aspect of Ana’s life.

Cut to Ana’s job interview (another scene that could be cut), cut to more conversations with Kate, cut to more not-as-cute-as-EL-James-thinks-they-are emails, cut to Ana flying to Georgia and finding that Christian has upgraded her to first class. Ana, again, gripes about his gift but doesn’t turn it down.

As there isn’t too much to say about this chapter, I’m going to discuss another literary antecedent of this story: Pamela, or Virtue Rewards, by Samuel Richardson, published 1740. Pamela is another story of a virtuous, socially subordinate woman encountering a sexually aggressive squire, Mr. B. The heroine’s dilemma is to be Mr. B’s mistress (as regulated by written documents) while living in a false marriage to a clergyman, or remain poor and unmarried. Eventually, Pamela’s passive resistance makes Mr. B repent from his plan to keep her as his mistress and he marries her instead. There are a few more plot developments, but ultimately Mr. B changes for Pamela, and they live happily ever after.

The plot of Fifty Shades of Grey hinges on the same dilemma as Pamela: the heroine, who wants what she considers to be the only proper sexual relationship, is forced to choose between being a kept woman or an abandoned and scorned woman. Except that this is 2012, not 1740, and a woman such as Ana is not faced with the same limited options as Pamela, though she persists in thinking about sexuality and relationships in terms of virtue and social reputation instead of negotiated transactions.

A few years later, in 1748, Richardson wrote Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady. Clarissa is far more intelligent and purposeful than Pamela, but her counterpart, Lovelace, is far more cunning. Clarissa thinks Lovelace is liberating her from the marriage market plans of her depraved family. Actually, he’s secreted her in what she doesn’t even realize is a brothel, and has built an elaborate system of surveillance, misinformation and false identities around her. Lovelace is bent on seducing Clarissa, getting her to give up her principles. Eventually, Lovelace loses patience, drugs Clarissa senseless and rapes her. Clarissa at last realizes what has been done to her, and refuses Lovelace’s desperate offer of marriage, martyring herself to her principles, while Lovelace dies in a duel.

Virtue is definitely not rewarded in Clarissa. According to at least one writer, Clarissa is the prototype of the modern novel, and everything from Gothic fiction to horror to erotica comes from it.

From what I understand of the ending of the trilogy, Ana ends up with her virtue rewarded like Pamela, not a martyr like Clarissa.

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