Study Guide

Clarissa Angels and Devils

By Samuel Richardson

Angels and Devils

Not a Dan Brown Book

Not to get too holy up in here, but angel imagery is practically littered throughout Clarissa's life. Okay, we get it: Clarissa's like an angel on earth. She eventually has to bail because she's just too good to hang around losers like Lovelace and the Harlowe crew. But it's not like Clarissa always has a halo on her head. It's only after her rape that she becomes a prime candidate for the Angel Mafia.

Belford gets the angel imagery going after he busts Clarissa out of jail. Belford not-so-subtly notes that

the kneeling lady, sunk with majesty too in her white, flowing robes (for she had not on a hoop), spreading the dark, though not dirty, floor, and illuminating that horrid corner; her linen beyond imagination white, considering that she had not been undressed ever since she had been here; I thought my concern would have choked me. (334.16)

Let's break it down, shall we?

First of all, we've got those white robes. Baby, you can see her halo without Beyoncé pointing it out. Plus, Belford can literally see Clarissa's goodness lighting up the dark room. Think of how helpful she'd be for Swiffer commercials! Finally, Belford makes sure to mention that Clarissa has remained clothed since she arrived, meaning that her clothes are white even though she hasn't been able to wash them. She's so pure that she even purifies her clothes. That's some powerful bleach.

Angelic Nicknames from a Devilish Dude

For most of the story, Lovelace calls Clarissa pet names like "dear creature." Not so cute, right? He's basically dehumanizing her to keep from thinking about his atrocious actions. After her death, though, she's an "angel of a woman" (334.17). In other words, the guy can only revere her if she's more than human. Once Clarissa's beyond his reach forever, he's totally comfortable calling her an angel.

Finding it Hard to Believe We're in Heaven

If Clarissa's the angel of the story, then Lovelace must be the one playing the devil card. He's pretty explicit about it, too: "My brain is all boiling like a caldron over a fiery furnace. What a devil is the matter with me, I wonder?" (497.21). It sounds like the dude already knows that his paradise is lost, even if he tries to deny it. To be honest, the distinction between good and evil is pretty clear, even if Lovelace seems to be all confused what he's done wrong.

As usual, Lovelace has a few partners in crime. The other devil of the hour would be Mrs. Sinclair, whose accident Belford characterizes as a plunge into hell: "…after a dreadful night, she lies foaming, raving, roaring, in a burning fever, that wants not any other fire to scorch her into a feeling more exquisite and vulnerable than any thy vengeance could make her suffer" (493.3). Not to hit it too hard with the Milton, but that's a direct copy of Satan's agony in Paradise Lost.

Actually, it seems like just about all of Clarissa's tormentors get compared to the guy down under. Belford calls Sally Martin "the devil incarnate" after telling her about Clarissa's death, which seems to imply that she's just as bad as Lovelace (493.5). Let's tone in down with the name-calling, Belford—especially when there's a real devil on the loose.

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