Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded uses a literary form of legal complaint to argue that Pamela has been injured by B's violent advances. Richardson suggests that these advances should be treated as legal wrongs and that Pamela deserves to be righted. However, her social status and her servitude to her local justice of the peace make recourse impossible. Along with the rest of the characters, B rejects her complaint, insisting instead that it is his reputation that has been injured by Pamela's pleas and that he, not Pamela, stands in need of remedy. Their contest over harm and remedy is an allegory of common law justice for victims of sexual violence: it tends to treat their complaints as malevolent prosecutions, directing legal scrutiny toward the victims of sexual violence rather than toward its perpetrators. Richardson's political critique of the legal system engenders an outsider theory of rights. Institutional accounts of rights suggest that rights are personal attributes of the individual or the unique inheritance of the English subject, but Pamela argues that they arise out of political conflicts over what counts as harm and what harm should be remedied. Historians, political theorists, and literary critics tend to agree that the novel reflects and consolidates these institutional rubrics, but this reading shows that outsider demands for legal remedy pose a unique threat to institutional political power.

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