Study Guide

Clarissa Guilt and Blame

By Samuel Richardson

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Guilt and Blame

And I charge you, on my blessing, that all this my truly maternal tenderness be not thrown away on you. (16.28)

Ah, the mother's guilt trip. While Mr. Lovelace storms and pouts, Mrs. Harlowe may have the more effective strategy—killing Clarissa with kindness.

Leave me, leave me, Clary Harlowe!—No kneeling!—limbs so supple; will so stubborn! Rise, I tell you. (18.103)

Clarissa's mom is onto something: while Clarissa's body is portrayed as weak and vulnerable, everyone knows her will is iron-clad. She's really laying on the guilt trip, here. 

In what, my dear sister, have I offended you, that instead of endeavouring to soften my father's anger against me (as I am sure I should have done for you, had my unhappy case been yours) you should in so hard-hearted a manner join to aggravate not only his displeasure, but my mama's against me. (29.20)

Ladies and gents, please observe how the blame game is done <em>right. </em>Clarissa butters her sister up, reminds her of her sisterly duty, and gets in a few jabs to finish it off. 

You may justly blame me for sending my messenger empty-handed, your situation considered; and yet that very situation (so critical!) is partly the reason for it: for indeed I knew not what to write, fit to send you (87.2)

Okay, so Anna is using the word "blame" in a pretty light-hearted context. Still, both Anna and Clarissa seem anxious that the other will blame her for her misfortunes. The girls both risk a lot for friendship. 

Had I not to console myself that my error is not owing to wicked precipitation, I should be the most miserable of all creatures (101.2)

Lighten up, Clarissa. Because our girl is so unlucky, she constantly has to remind herself that she's not to blame. Still, she manages to come across as feeling <em>really</em> guilty about the whole thing. 

Is it prudent, thinkst thou, in her circumstances, to tell me, <em>repeatedly </em>to tell me that she is every hour more dissatisfied with herself and me? (108.3)

Clarissa sure isn't shy about telling Lovelace off. Even though Lovelace doesn't think it's the best strategy, Clarissa's using every tool at her disposal to make him cease and desist—including blaming him for her ruin. 

But you want to clear up things—<em>What </em>can you clear up? Are you not gone off—with a Lovelace too?—<em>What, </em>my dear, would you clear up? (144.3)

Let's get this straight. Is Mrs. Hervey basically saying that Clarissa is out of options? What's with the major guilt trip? Oh right: no matter what happens to a woman in the eighteenth-century, you can assume that everyone else is going to blame her for it. 

The affair is over. Clarissa lives (257.1)

Notice anything, Shmoopers? While guilt and blame practically litter every other sentence, there's none of it in the most pivotal sentence in the book—when Lovelace confesses to raping Clarissa. Why do you think that is?

But pray, miss, don't make my Nancy guilty of your fault, which is that of disobedience (296.3)

This, folks, is what piling it on looks like. Mrs. Howe is pretty merciless in her take-down of Clarissa, particularly considering that it's the first letter after the rape. No sympathy here, just blame and shame. 

I own, sir, that I have on all occasions spoken of your treatment of my ever-dear cousin as it deserved. (535.4)

Colonel Morden is a gentleman through and through, even when he's accusing Lovelace of killing Clarissa. He sees himself as carrying out justice, but he doesn't get all dramatic about it. No histrionic guilt trips; just deadly sword play. 

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