Is it hot in here or is just us? Lovelace single-handedly cranks up the radiator with his passion for Clarissa. While everyone else in Clarissaseems pretty adept at keeping their lusty feelings in check, Lovelace doesn't really bother keeping it under wraps. Let's just say that the guy could use a cold shower.
Of course, Clarissa is the main object of Lovelace's lust. While he's hot to trot, she'd just rather not. It's not that simple, though: Lovelace is free to carry on a never-ending bachelor party without major consequences, whereas Clarissa's marked as a ruined woman as soon as she climbs in his carriage. Life isn't kind to a lusty lady in Clarissa's day. The million-dollar question is whether Richardson is critiquing the double standard or buying into it.
Lovelace's sex obsession is the result of some serious insecurity issues with women.
While Lovelace's lust for Clarissa is replaced by respect, he's never truly able to love her in a way that would result in a happy marriage.
It's tempting to call out Lovelace for being the master manipulator in this here story. He goes to extreme lengths to keep Clarissa under lock and key, while tricking all his cronies into helping him do it. Plus, he's got that winning smile!
Thing is, just about everybody has a piece of the manipulation pie (with the possible exception of Clarissa, of course). The Harlowes are all about coaxing and badgering Clarissa into marrying Solmes, even though that's clearly not what she wants. Mrs. Sinclair and her merry band of prostitutes definitely want to manipulate Clarissa into sinking to their level. In Clarissa, it's all about keeping your head in the game—and trying to figure out what's going on in everybody's head.
Over the course of the book, Clarissa learns how to manipulate and how to avoid being manipulated.
Mrs. Sinclair manipulates Clarissa and everyone else around her just for the sheer joy of watching destruction. Some women just want to watch the world burn.
In Clarissa, there's only one game to play at family home evening, and it's not Monopoly. It's the blame game. At the beginning, it's all about pinning the blame on Clarissa (kind of like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, only a little more sinister). Everyone blames her for not cooperating, but no one seems to have her best interests at heart. By the end, the goal shifts to expose every single one of those phonies. It may seem pretty simple to point a finger toward Lovelace, but nearly everyone seems to have a hand in sending Clarissa to the grave. The problem? Well, it doesn't exactly bring her back.
Belford helps Clarissa because of his own unresolved guilt about being a player in his youth.
Clarissa consciously tries to avoid placing blame on others, although she probably has the most right to do so.
Pride goeth before a fall. Truer words were never spoken in Clarissa-land, where everyone's got something to prove. If we could get the Harlowe family on Dr. Phil's couch, we might ask them to break down exactly why pride is more important than keeping family bonds intact (and if we could answer that question, we'd be raking in the millions).
In Clarissa, pride has a lot to do with two things: wealth and reputation. Either you have 'em or you don't, but no one wants to admit that they've fallen short. James and Arabella want their sis to marry Mr. Moneybags and be done with it, but Clarissa's is more worried about keeping a solid rep.
Despite always being there for Clarissa, Anna is proud of her ability to keep out of trouble.
Clarissa is too proud to cave to parental pressure, but she'd adjust her attitude for the right person.
Shmoopers, let's talk about how Clarissa's principles spread like wildfire. Think of her as Regina George in Mean Girls (except, y'know, not mean): everything the girl does is trendy two seconds later. Even though Anna's not the jealous type, you just know Clarissa's letters make her step up her moral game. Even the prostitutes start reading moral literature when Clarissa comes to town. Our girl can't help it: she's naturally good.
But a certain fellow whose name starts with L threw his principles out with the bathwater. Lovelace isn't terribly concerned with maintaining integrity, especially where Clarissa is concerned. For some weird reason, though, the guy can't help but surround himself with virtuous people like Clarissa and Belford. While he's not going to be copying Clarissa anytime soon, he's picking up what the Queen Bee is putting down—and it's all laid out in Clarissa.
Clarissa's virtuous reputation is based on her ability to empathize, not her virgin status.
Lovelace is driven to corrupt Clarissa spiritually as well as seduce her.
Let's not mince words: it's tough to be a lady in the eighteenth century—and in Clarissa. While Lovelace is gallivanting around doing whatever the heck he pleases, Clarissa has to treat her life like a high-stakes chess tournament. And she's not the king or the queen in this game—she's the pawn.
For real, Clarissa has lots of disadvantages. Her family is less than supportive, Lovelace is dead-set on seducing her, and Mr. Solmes wants her to be his bride. But mainly, she's an unmarried woman who doesn't have tons of options. It's a good thing she's got Anna to commiserate over all her probs, because she's playing this game to win.
Richardson saw <em>Clarissa </em>as an exploration of the difficulty of women's lives.
Lovelace isn't fully aware of how his actions will affect Clarissa until it's too late for him to go back.
No, Clarissa doesn't come swooping in with a cape to deliver justice to those who have wronged her. (Would watch.) Instead, revenge gets talked about….and talked about…and talked about, without anyone's making good on their passionate promises. That is, unless you count James Harlowe's weak attempt to fight Lovelace for making fun of him in college, which we don't, because James falls right on his face. Obviously.
No, revenge is mostly a pipe dream for Clarissa's friends and family. Until Colonel Morden arrives in the final act, it seems like Lovelace will get away with his crimes. Of course, we still love to imagine all 1500 pages of Clarissa as a build up to the final duel, in which Morden gives Lovelace a little taste of revenge. It is a dish best served cold, after all, and anything would be cold after 1,500 pages.
Richardson generally approves of duels and sees them as a good way to settle offenses against your honor.
Belford's revenge against Lovelace consists of becoming Clarissa's executor. (Instead of executioner. Womp womp.)
It's not like Clarissa is all high-society or anything. She's just extremelyconscious that class matters if she wants to survive and thrive in her little community. Let's just say that Clarissais like a giant game of that middle-school game Telephone. People are constantly whispering, and Clarissa is the hottest topic of conversation since Lady So-and-So married Whatshisface.
Even more important than Clarissa's reputation is acting correctly for her class. If she can stay out of the headlines and marry someone who adds to her family's fortune, she'll be set for life. Of course, that won't be the easiest task in the world—not as long as there's a handsome devil looking to woo her and not wed her.
Clarissa is far more concerned with maintaining her reputation than advancing her social class, which leads to most of her problems.
Lovelace couldn't care less about where he stands in society. He just wants to do his own thing—and if that involves consorting with whores, so be it.
It's not that she's all holier-than-thou, but—okay, she's a little holier-than-thou. Clarissa definitely takes puts the "pie" in pious. Especially when she's cut off from her family and friends, Clarissa turns to the big man for some consolation. It doesn't hurt that Lovelace stays the heck away from church (we think there's a good chance he's a vampire).
Clarissa has always been into religion. But by the end of <em>Clarissa</em>, she hits the Bible big-time. She can't go a single second without quoting Proverbs or acting all angelic-like, and we can't blame her—she's got a one-way express ticket to heaven. And she sets a good example along the way: Clarissa's devotion to religion inspires Belford, Anna, and a host of others to embrace a holy lifestyle. It's just too bad that Lovelace can't get on board.
Clarissa's religion is genuine, but it's also a way for her to explore an identity other than wife or mother.
People consider Clarissa to be angel on earth because they can't handle the idea of a ruined woman living her life.
What's up with everyone wanting to keep Clarissa locked up? She's got a tighter curfew than a sixteen-year-old who's just wrecked the family car. Unfortunately, unless our girl is escaping from somewhere, she's always under lock and key. Even when she's at Mrs. Moore's or Mrs. Smith's, she's being carefully monitored by someone. Whether it's a friend or foe, Big Brother is always watching.
If Clarissa is really the History of a Young Lady, as the subtitle implies, there's a lot more going on with this freedom and confinement thing. After all, it's not like young ladies in Richardson's time got to go roaming around with the freedom a Lovelace might have. In some ways, this is the story of how Clarissa learns to navigate spaces that most respectable women wouldn't dare enter. The irony is that she isn't free when she wanders into and out of brothels and boarding houses. Not to be a downer, but there's just no way out for Clarissa.
Belford doesn't so much liberate Clarissa as confine her in another way.
When Clarissa runs away with Lovelace, she's at least partly willing. It may be another form of confinement, but at least it feels a little more like freedom.