Study Guide

Clarissa Gender

By Samuel Richardson

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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.

Questions About Gender

  1. What advantages does James Harlowe have that his sisters might not necessarily get? Is James aware of these advantages?
  2. Does Clarissa have a strategy for marriage and family, or does she just let the cards fall where they may?
  3. Does Lovelace ever consider the double standard for men and women? Why or why not?
  4. Why is Clarissa's family so anxious to have her married ASAP?

Chew on This

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.

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