Study Guide

Samuel Richardson Writing Styles in Clarissa

This Study Guide consists of approximately 130 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Clarissa.
This section contains 725 words
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Point of View

The novel is written in an epistolary style, using letters so the point of view used is first person limited, shifting between characters. The main characters whose point of view is used are Clarissa, Mr. Lovelace, John Belford and Miss Howe. Each character can only display their own feelings. Because the novel is written using letters, sometimes lying, misjudging and misinterpretations occur. The reader is conveyed along with the letters blindly, knowing as little as the characters at that point in the correspondence.

The letters are roughly chronological, but the replies are not always next to the original because other letters may be written in the intervening time period. Some letters, particularly toward the end with Clarissa's posthumous letters, appear completely out of sequence. It is also very common for one letter to include copies of several others.

Mr. Lovelace's letters often lie, especially when he writes to Clarissa. He is also very contradictory, even within the same letter. He expresses much gaiety, levity and sarcasm. Clarissa is very moral and often reflects on the divine. Her letters occasionally contain meditations about moral matters. Mr. Belford's letters prove he is a dynamic character because they begin similar to Mr. Lovelace's letter but transform to resemble Clarissa's letters. Miss Howe expresses her high spirits and her emotions very clearly in her letters, never leaving a doubt as to exactly what her opinion is.

Setting

The setting is late 17th century England. An exact year is not provided but the letters are dated from January 10th to December 18th. The majority of the action takes place at Harlowe Place, Widow Sinclair's house, Mrs. Moore's house and Mrs. Smith's house. The setting follows a somewhat circular pattern, beginning and ending at Harlowe Place. All Mr. Lovelace's major offenses against Clarissa occur at Widow Sinclair's brothel, a location that makes the offenses somewhat appropriate. The epilogue is written approximately two to three years after the last letter based on the most recent death mentioned.

Language and Meaning

The language of the novel is fairly formal and modest, which is appropriate for the time period in which the action occurs. Most of the letters are written in a vernacular that is quite easy to understand. Many of the letters between Mr. Lovelace and John Belford are written using formal, antiquated language because they believe it makes them sound smarter.

The language often is affected by the tone of the writer. It is fairly easy to distinguish between the four main writers by their tone. Mr. Lovelace is often very gay or angry. He is usually lying or defending himself. Clarissa is always very modest, forgiving and level-headed. Miss Howe tends to give in to her moods and is very opinionated. John Belford's writing is rather formal and stiff at first but begins to mimic Clarissa's tone midway through the novel. The only writers whose tones are easily confused are Mr. Lovelace and Miss Howe, but the opinions and topics are very distinct.

Structure

This novel is comprised of five-hundred, thirty-seven letters of varying lengths. The shortest letter is two sentences while the longest is around thirty pages. There is a preface that explains the format and an epilogue that gives up an update of the characters two to three years after the action is completed. The length of the action varies. One letter may be written over the space of four days and then five letters be written the very next day. There is very little action, the entire book is mostly thoughts and opinions. The entire action of the novel would take up a very small portion of this fifteen-hundred page book.

The plot is fairly simple with very small digressions. The plot centers on an eighteen-year-old lady, who is tricked into eloping and ruined. Her family's unforgiving nature and her aggressor's torments lead to her illness and ultimately to her death. After her death, her family is grieved and repentant. Her cousin avenges her death on her aggressor. The main part of the novel acquaints the reader with the protagonist's virtues and piety.

The pace varies greatly. Some sections are full of reflection; whereas, other pages may have constant action. There are periodic flashbacks and delays in information being relayed, supposedly due to postal reasons. The novel is easy to read and very interesting. The characters are easy to get to know.

This section contains 725 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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