Study Guide

Clarissa Society and Class

By Samuel Richardson

Society and Class

[…]both Mrs. How and Miss, as matters stood, would much rather have excused his visits; but they had more than once apologized that, having not the same reason my papa had to forbid him their house, his rank and fortune entitled him to civility (7.9)

Mr. Solmes is the kind of guy who no one would go near if not for his major moneybags. Fortunately, he doesn't seem to mind being loved for his money—and, fortunately, he's got a lot of it. More of him to love! 

I ask this favor, therefore, for my reputation's sake, that I may be able to hold my head up in the neighborhood, if I live to see an end of the unmerited severities […] (22.22)

Clarissa's a regular Olivia Pope: she knows that in order to manage her own reputation, she needs to look like a respectable lady.

Are these steps necessary to reduce me to a standard so low as to make a fit wife for this man? (32.23)

Basically, Clarissa is way out of Solmes's league. Just look at his letters! Clarissa couldn't possibly marry someone with the literacy of a twelve-year-old discovering the Internet for the first time. <em>

If anything happens to delay your nuptials, I would advise you to remove: but if you marry, you may, perhaps, think it no great matter to stay where you are, till you take possession of your own estate (164.8)

Clarissa has to be <em>very </em>careful once she's in Lovelace's power. Her reputation is still salvageable, but one misstep could make it go poof—and with it, all her family's attempts at social climbing. 

What will the people below, who suppose us as one to the ceremony, think of so great a niceness? (227.2)

Lovelace is definitely trying to take advantage of Clarissa's class-consciousness. As long as they pretend to be married, it's okay, right? Not so much. Clarissa is all about the substance and not so much about the appearance. 

All my hope is find some reputable family, or person of my own sex, who is obliged to beyond sea, or who lives abroad […] (230.3)

Clarissa's sure that her life in England is done for. Her only hope is to book it out of there and start over. Sounds romantic, eh? Not so much when you consider that she's talking about being a servant for the rest of her life. 

Here, people cannot be happy by themselves, but they must involve their friends and acquaintance, whose discretion has kept them clear of their own errors […] (296.4)

Mrs. Howe thinks Clarissa is a sinking ship, and she's taking down everyone with her. Pardon the pun, but that's a Titanic mistake.

She says that the good of society requires that such a beast of prey should be hunted out of it; and if you do not prosecute him, she thinks you will be answerable for all the mischiefs he may do in the course of his future villainous life (317.5)

Clarissa's in a bit of a pickle. If she prosecutes Lovelace for his crime, her story will be broadcast even further than it already is. Then again, Mrs. Howe seems to have a point. If they can get Lovelace off the streets, then maybe he won't hurt another woman. <em>

She may—how can I speak it, and my once darling daughter unmarried!—She may be with child! This would perpetuate her stain (376.3)

Clarissa's so-called indiscretion has already majorly impacted the family's social position. If she's knocked up, they fall even further. Luckily, she does the only thing she can do to fix the situation and dies. WHEW. 

You see the fruits of preferring a rake and libertine to a man of sobriety and morals (402.6)

Does Solmes really have morals, or does he just have money? It doesn't seem to matter, as long as he manages to convey the appearance of having a good reputation. 

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