Study Guide

Clarissa Manipulation

By Samuel Richardson

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I knew that the whole stupid family were in a combination to do my business for me (97.4)

Lovelace is a master manipulator. It's clear he's messing with Clarissa's mind, but do you think he's trying to hoodwink the rest of the Harlowe fam? Consider this: ruining Clarissa casts a shadow on the whole family, and he does have beef with her bro … 

How different, how inexpressibly different, the gay wretch; visibly triumphing (as I could not but construe his almost rapturous joy) in the success of his arts! (98.4)

This may be the first time Clarissa gets wise to Lovelace's evil plan. Even so, she keeps trusting the guy for a while. Either she's <em>really</em> naïve, or he's <em>really</em> good at manipulating her. 

But when it came to my turn, I pleaded, I argued, I answered her, as well as I could—And when humility would not do, I raised my voice and suffered my eye to sparkle with anger […] (103.5)

A lot of what Lovelace does is straight-up manipulation, but he's also got a violent streak. Even scarier: he's analyzing his own creepy behavior. That's the mark of a true sociopath. 

Every possible objection anticipated! Every accident provided against!—Every tittle of it plot-proof! (131.2)

Lovelace seems to devote every waking hour to seducing Clarissa. Dude <em>really</em> needs to get a hobby that doesn't involve seducing girls. Cool thing: notice that he says his plan is "plot-proof." Guess who else comes up with plots? That's right: writers. Maybe Richardson is the manipulator we should really be worried about. 

Your beloved's honour is inviolate!—<em>Must </em>be inviolate! And <em>will </em>be so, in spite of men and devils (181.1)

Anna reassures Mrs. Norton that Clarissa is basically immune to manipulation. If we take her word for it, then we have to think Clarissa heads to her fate with open eyes—because she thinks it's her best option. Pretty sad. 

'Tis my pride to subdue girls who know too much to doubt their knowledge; and to convince them that they know too little to defend themselves from the inconveniencies of knowing too much (199.13)

Okay, so Lovelace sometimes speaks in riddles. It's not just about tricking Clarissa—he also considers Anna to be fair game. And notice here that he doesn't want to seduce Anna; he just wants to take her down a peg or two. 

So near to execution my plot! So near springing my mine! (224.2)

It's hard to reconcile Lovelace's gloating with Clarissa's assessment that he's not that bad. Although he seems to occasionally treat Clarissa respectfully, he never really wavers from his evil goals. (Cue maniacal laughter.)

He extorted from me a promise of forgiveness […] but if it were possible to escape from a wretch who, as I have too much reason to believe, formed a plot to fire the house, to frighten me almost naked into his arms, how could I see him next day? (230.1)

It's ironic that the one time Lovelace doesn't plot something, it gets pinned on him. We never find out who started that fire, but Dorcas seems to be a prime suspect.

But recollecting myself, am I again, thought I, in a way to be overcome and made a fool of!—If I now recede, I am gone for ever. (256.37)

Let's not even touch how bizarre it is that Lovelace sees himself as some sort of victim. Could his entire motivation be to avoid being manipulated by a woman he loves? Or maybe—here's a radical thought—this is the big ol' problem with eighteenth-century marriage: when you make it into a business deal, then both parties are constantly trying to get the better bargain. 

I am grown choleric and impatient, and will not be controlled (497.19).

After Clarissa dies, Lovelace's issues get even worse. Positive outcome: at least it'll be harder to seduce other innocent girls. 

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