Study Guide

Clarissa What's Up With the Title?

By Samuel Richardson

What's Up With the Title?

Clarissa; or The History of a Young Lady seems pretty clear from the outset. It's all about Clarissa's adventures and mishaps, after all. She's the star of the show, the belle of the ball, the main attraction.

But what's up with the second part of the title? Richardson seems to be making a universal claim about all young ladies of the time. It makes sense: Richy-Rich made his name writing that other famous story about a young lady, Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded. Compared to that title, Clarissa slips a clue that its heroine might not get the same reward. She may be super virtuous, but that doesn't ensure that she'll automatically get everything she wants. Instead, we're going to get a glimpse into the history of lots of ladies struggling to balance family and marriage. It might not be all flowers and unicorns, but that's a history worth looking at.