Study Guide

Clarissa Themes

This Study Guide consists of approximately 135 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Clarissa.
This section contains 737 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)


Clarissa's family is unrelenting in their refusal to forgive Clarissa and receive her into their favor until her death makes it too late to be of any value. Their resentment is over her unwillingness to marry someone that Clarissa finds odious. Likewise, the Harlowes refuse to forgive Mr. Lovelace's treatment of Clarissa while he parallels their refusal to forgive by refusing to forgive their treatment of Clarissa. Miss Howe will not forgive the Harlowes or Mr. Lovelace for maltreating Clarissa. After Clarissa's death, everyone is unwilling to forgive themselves.

The irony of this is that everyone refuses to forgive multiple people for the injuries done to Clarissa. Paradoxically, Clarissa, who receives all the injuries that are not forgiven by the others, forgives everyone. Her posthumous letters and her will, as well as her dying words, express her forgiveness for everyone who injured her in any way and plead for peace. Her final wishes are disregarded because everyone is so interested in avenging Clarissa against one another. This results in Colonel Morden killing Mr. Lovelace.

Clarissa's defense against revenge is that vengeance is the Lord's territory. Ironically, the people who do not seem much concerned with Clarissa's death, such as Widow Sinclair, Polly, Sally, M'Donald, Joseph, etc., receive their revenge by the hand of God, according to Clarissa's predictions that God would avenge her.


Friendship is a theme that is explored in this novel. Paralleling friendship is loyalty. Miss Howe's friendship with Clarissa is the central friendship in the novel, and both ladies prove their loyalty to one another in many different instances. The greatest example may be Miss Howe's delaying her marriage until Clarissa is happy. Miss Howe also mourns the better half of her soul at Clarissa's death. Clarissa's refers to Miss Howe as her other half and directs all questions of her will to Miss Howe because of their great friendship. Clarissa wears a miniature of her best friend on her bosom. Their close friendship is better proven by their willingness to correct each other of their errors. They are not afraid of offending one another because their thoughts are so similar.

Mr. Lovelace and John Belford's friendship is quite different. They are no less close than the ladies, but their lives begin to take different directions after Clarissa's imprisonment. Mr. Belford's loyalty to Mr. Lovelace despite their different opinions is shown by his discouraging Colonel Morden to duel with Mr. Lovelace and his advice to Mr. Lovelace to reform. Unlike Clarissa and Miss Howe's friendship, however, Mr. Lovelace gets very angry whenever Mr. Belford points out his sins to him or disapproves of his actions.


Pride is a theme that recurs through this novel. Nearly every character exhibits pride at some point during this novel. The largest differences concern the source of the pride.

Mr. Lovelace is the most likely candidate from this novel for the topic of pride. His pride is what causes him to pursue Clarissa when her family forbids her to see him. His pride is what influences him to try her virtue and what makes him unhappy with her agreement to marry him. Because Clarissa is willing to marry him to promote reconciliation with her family, his pride is injured, and he decides to make her suffer for it. His pride leads him to imagine a parade with the townspeople praising his good looks if he is ever convicted for his crimes. It is his pride that Clarissa injures when she rejects his proposals over and over again. His pride leads him into many errors and offenses.

James's pride and greed are what lead him to assist in Clarissa's demise. Arabella's pride is injured when Mr. Lovelace chooses Clarissa over Arabella. The Harlowes' pride is evident when Clarissa disobeys them. Mr. Hickman shows his pride when he is glad that Mr. Lovelace does not approve of him. Miss Howe shows her pride in the way she treats Mr. Hickman.

Clarissa's pride is in her morality and virtue and her pride may be the worst case of pride in the novel, since the injury to her pride leads to her death. The doctor states that her illness is a broken heart or a lack of hope for life. Her hope for life is to be praised as pious and virtuous. When this hope is ruined, she mourns herself to death. She allows her pride to kill her.

This section contains 737 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Clarissa from BookRags. (c)2017 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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