Study Guide

Clarissa Freedom and Confinement

By Samuel Richardson

Freedom and Confinement

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.

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. Does Clarissa feel more confined in her family home or when she's with Lovelace?
  2. How does Clarissa get up the courage to escape from Lovelace? Does she have any support from anyone?
  3. Where does Clarissa have the most freedom? Does she ever get to experience freedom before her death?
  4. Are the other ladies in the book confined by social conventions, or is Clarissa the only one under lock and key?      

Chew on This

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.