This section contains 1,784 words
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Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson is a novel that portrays the events leading up to the ruin of a virtuous eighteen-year-old lady. Despite her chastity being compromised, Clarissa maintains her honor by not yielding her will. She must learn to overcome the grief that attends this loss or allow it to kill her. Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady is an epistolary, coming-of-age story, teeming with examples of friendship, betrayal, honor and pride. It displays all that is good in humanity, as well as all that it bad.
The preface identifies this novel as a history composed of a series of letters, primarily between two sets of friends: two young ladies of virtue and honor and two gentlemen of free lives. Although the editor considered using a narrative format to shorten the length, it was ultimately decided against, as it would deteriorate the reader's understanding on the thoughts of the characters involved.
Miss Anna Howe requests that Clarissa send her details concerning the swordfight between Clarissa's brother, James Harlowe and Mr. Lovelace. There is a rumor that James instigated the fight, but when Mr. Lovelace injured James, Lovelace helped bandage the wound. Clarissa's Uncle Antony has visited to tell Mrs. Howe that he thinks it is a crime for James' sister to encourage Mr. Lovelace. Rumors are also circulating that Clarissa, the younger sister, stole her older sister, Arabella's beau. Miss Howe is eager to know the entire story in order to to expiate any guilt blamed on Clarissa if worse events occur. Miss Howe believes the reason that Clarissa is so persecuted is because she excels above those of her sex, and Miss Howe wishes Clarissa were left to pursue her own desires.
Clarissa agrees to relate the affair with Mr. Lovelace to date. Uncle Antony introduced Mr. Lovelace and Arabella while James is in Scotland, and Clarissa is visiting her dairy house on her grandfather's estate. Arabella visits Clarissa the day after she met Mr. Lovelace to express her satisfaction with him. After Arabella and Mr. Lovelace's second encounter, Arabella likes him even more but is unhappy that he has made no particular address to her. Although she decides he is bashful, she is very displeased when their third interview concludes with the same results. With Aunt Hervey's advice, Arabella decides to display reserve toward Mr. Lovelace and is very disagreeable at the next visit. When Mr. Lovelace proposes; Arabella is unhappy with the manner of his address and refuses him. Clarissa cannot help noting that is commonly the practice for women to be scorned when they are kind and upbraided when they are severe.
Mr. Lovelace accepts Arabella's rejection and visits Uncle Antony for two weeks. Arabella declares that she did not really like Mr. Lovelace that much anyway. When Mr. Lovelace returns to Harlowe Place, he is attentive to Clarissa, and, at first, the family encourages his suit. Clarissa objects to encouraging Mr. Lovelace because of his faulty morals and has no problem only permitting his visits when the entire family is present. Lord M visits with Mr. Lovelace's proposal, but Mr. Harlowe refuses an answer until James returns from Scotland. Meanwhile, Uncle Hervey requests that Mr. Lovelace write descriptions of the countries visited on the Grand Tour for the Herveys' young charge, and Mr. Lovelace agrees under the condition that Clarissa directs the subjects, giving him a chance to include notes stating his love and regard for Clarissa. Clarissa rebukes these attempts, angering him.
James, whose dislike of Mr. Lovelace dates back to a college rivalry, returns to Harlowe Place and is in league with Arabella, who claims she never liked Mr. Lovelace. The pair constantly taunt Clarissa, affront Mr. Lovelace, and attempt to have Mr. Lovelace banned from the house. Mr. Lovelace tolerates their insolence because of his love for Clarissa. When James inquires of Mr. Lovelace's character from a fired servant, he learns that Mr. Lovelace has a bad reputation where women are concerned, but he is otherwise a good man. James goes out to confront Mr. Lovelace, which turns into an argument and then scuffle. James' injuries lead to a fever, and Mr. Lovelace is banned from Harlowe Place, vowing revenge. Clarissa receives a letter from Mr. Lovelace that convinces her that James was the offender. Mr. Harlowe forbids Clarissa to correspond with Mr. Lovelace, but Mrs. Harlowe leaves it to Clarissa's discretion.
Clarissa wishes that Miss Howe had been her sister, through marrying James, because she could have molded him and made him worthy. The older generation Harlowes believe Clarissa is treated unkindly by her siblings but permit it because they are convinced she corresponds with Mr. Lovelace. James refuses to leave Harlowe Place until Clarissa is married and suggests Mr. Wyerley or Mr. Solmes, both of whom Clarissa reject. James suggests taking Clarissa to Scotland with him if he cannot see her married, but Mrs. Harlowe objects because Clarissa has taken over much of the housework in her mother's illness. Clarissa objects because her brother would treat her like a servant. Clarissa asks and is granted maternal permission to visit Miss Howe for two weeks. James is unhappy that Clarissa is going and forbids her to receive any visits from Lovelace. When Clarissa points out that he is not her father, Mr. Harlowe seconds the motion. Clarissa, her mother and her aunt stress Clarissa's prudence and indifference, but James taunts her "apparent indifference" and receives a rebuke from their father. Clarissa is sure of the Howes' welcome and will arrive in 2-3 days.
A month later, after her return to Harlowe Place, Clarissa begins writing again. She was commanded home without notice to prevent a possible elopement with Mr. Lovelace, when she discovered that her family has approved a husband for her, Mr. Solmes. James meets Clarissa at the door and leads her to the parlor where the family is gathered and attempts to intimidate her into accepting the disagreeable Mr. Solmes' visits. She requests to go to her room. She is called to tea, of which she asked to be excused, but descends on the second call. James taunts Clarissa, saying she is sulky because Mr. Lovelace has been spoken against, but their mother stops their argument. Before tea is finished, Uncle Antony presents his friend, Mr. Solmes, who disgusts Clarissa by sitting near her.
Clarissa cannot stand Mr. Solmes and he is always around. Her parents avoid speaking to her alone, and Mrs. Norton and Aunt Hervey have been forbidden to visit because they disapprove of Mr. Solmes. Clarissa is not allowed to go to church because the Harlowes are afraid Mr. Lovelace will follow her home. Aunt Hervey is allowed to visit the next day to present Mr. Solmes' proposal to Clarissa. When she does, Clarissa responds with an absolute refusal; she hates him. When Aunt Hervey tells James, he forbids Clarissa to correspond with anyone outside of the house for one month, and Arabella forbids Clarissa to have any visitors for two weeks. At tea, everyone is silent and cold towards Clarissa, and eventually, everyone leaves the room except Mr. Harlowe. Her father blames himself for indulging Clarissa so much and informs her that he will not be contradicted. He rebuffs Clarissa's attempts to defend herself, and when Clarissa drops to her knees to plead with him, her father walks out of the room.
Aunt Hervey tells Clarissa that the entire family is depending on her meekness for her to yield and recommends that Clarissa encourage Mr. Solmes. Clarissa will accept punishment but will not encourage that man. Because Clarissa cannot bear the idea of not writing to Miss Howe, she suggests corresponding through Green Lane. She also asks for advice about Mr. Solmes because her regards are not engaged to another. Clarissa does not understand the fairness of her older brother and sister remaining single and trying to force her into marriage.
Miss Howe is appalled the Clarissa would even suggest an approval of Mr. Solmes. She cannot believe that Clarissa's entire family approves of him. She had heard somewhat of the circumstances through the rumor mill but thought that Arabella was the sister that was being courted. She advises Clarissa to speak out and wishes she could have given Clarissa some of her spirit before Clarissa gave Mr. Harlowe the management of Clarissa's grandfather's estate. Miss Howe says the James is not married because he is too arrogant and his temper is too well known, and Arabella is not married because no one wants her when Clarissa is around. The family must be forbidding correspondence because they do not want judgment due to the foolishness of their plan. Miss Howe is disgusted with the way James and Arabella treat Clarissa and claims she would never allow her siblings to tread on her in such a way. Miss Howe is better suited for this world, Clarissa for the next. When Miss Howe informs her mother of what is going on with Harlowes, it begins a tirade about Miss Howe's cruelty to Mrs. Howe's chosen suitor. Miss Howe worries that Clarissa loves Mr. Lovelace and asks her to examine her feelings.
In the first ten letters, the main characters are introduced and their character traits begin to be revealed. The protagonist is introduced through her own eyes, as well as through her best friend. The antagonists of the first part of the story are introduced through the characters of James and Arabella. Clarissa's relationship with Mr. Lovelace is foreshadowed through her family's insinuations of her love for him. Through the style of Clarissa's writing, as well as Miss Howe's description of her, Clarissa's character is revealed as being extremely sober, virtuous and pious. Mr. Lovelace is introduced but slightly in this first part of the novel.
Much exposition is provided, concerning what has occurred to this point in the story, such as the reasons that the Harlowes hate Mr. Lovelace. The structure is laid out in an epistolary format, and the conflict is set up for the first part of the novel. There are many foils set up throughout this novel, and several are produced early in the story, such as Miss Howe's levity and impudence as juxtaposed to Clarissa's sobriety and modesty. The reader also sees Mr. Lovelace's good breeding, intelligence and good looks compared to Mr. Solmes' ignorance and ugly features. The reader is also acquainted with the tones of writing between Clarissa and Miss Howe. Although they are familiar and write accordingly, Miss Howe's tone is generally much more sarcastic, and she is prone to explicit judgment.
This section contains 1,784 words
(approx. 5 pages at 400 words per page)