Study Guide

Clarissa Gender

By Samuel Richardson

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But how know I that I have not made my own difficulties?—Is she not a woman?—What redress lies for a perpetrated evil?—Must she not <em>live? </em>(256.25)

Lovelace doesn't often consider the double standard for men and women, but he's definitely starting to figure it out. We'd give him props if he wasn't such a jerk.

I am inexpressible concerned at the fate of this matchless lady! (258.2)

Belford's all about stating the obvious. Lovelace has majorly screwed Clarissa's chances of having a normal life, even though the same actions haven't affected his reputation at all. 

But you seem to be sensible enough of your errors now! So are all giddy girls, when it is too late—and what a crestfallen figure then does their self-willed obstinacy and headstrongness compel them to make! (296.7)

Mrs. Howe really knows how to rub salt in a wound. Notice how she refuses to call Clarissa a woman? Seems like there's a difference between girls and women, as well as between women and men.

We have an angel, not a woman, with us, Mrs. Smith! (349.13)

After Clarissa's so-called ruin, her friends have to come up with new ways of talking about her. They still respect her, but their respect now goes beyond gendered expectations. She's so good she's not even human anymore. 

But our sex are generally modest and bashful themselves, and are too apt to consider that, which in the main is their principal grace, as a defect; and finely do they judge, when they think of supplying that defect by choosing a man who cannot be ashamed (367.57)

Anna's getting a little complicated up in here, so let's break it down: she thinks ladies are usually attracted to their opposites. Even more complicated: women are supposed to be angelically good, so does that mean that men are demonically bad?

</em>It shall ever be a rule with me, that he who does not regard a woman with some degree of reverence, will look upon her, and occasionally <em>treat </em>her, with contempt (367.60)

So what's the right thing to do: put women up on a pedestal? Anna seems to think so. But we have a major counter example in the form of Clarissa. If Lovelace hadn't idolized her, maybe he wouldn't have gone to such lengths to knock her down. 

But to collect his character from his principles with regard to the sex in general, and from his enterprises upon many of them, and to consider the cruelty of his nature and the sportiveness of his invention, together with the high opinion he has himself, it will not be doubted that a wife of his must have been miserable […] (379.5)

It's hard out there for a pimp—or a rake. Even if Lovelace wanted to settle down, he'd never be able to make a woman happy. Bad boys might be sexy, but they're no good as husbands. 

Let me, our dearest cousin (we cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of calling you so), let me entreat you to give me your permission for my journey to London; and put it in the power of Lord M., and the ladies of the family to make you what reparation they can make you […] (384.3)

It's pretty cool that the women in Lovelace's family step up to embrace Clarissa as their own, even when her own family rejects her. Or are they just trying to save face by pretending that some sort of marriage happened? (Also, contrast this to the women in Clarissa's family, who flat-out reject her.)

But surely, Belford, the devil's in this lady! (395.5)

Here's a change in Lovelace's tune. Although he's been calling Clarissa an angel, he abruptly slips back into his usual rhetoric of framing her as a recalcitrant woman when she won't do what he wants.

But that, notwithstanding all her acquirements, she was an excellent ECONOMIST and HOUSEWIFE (529.29)

Cool it with the all-caps, Anna. But it's kind of interesting how Anna praises the (deceased) Clarissa as the one thing she never truly got to be: a housewife.

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