Study Guide

Clarissa Principles

By Samuel Richardson

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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

Questions About Principles

  1. Where does Clarissa get her integrity? Does she have a role model, or does she naturally intuit what's right?
  2. Does Lovelace have some sort of moral code? What does he consider crossing the line, morally speaking?
  3. How does Clarissa's definition of virtue change over the course of the book?
  4. What leads Belford to help Clarissa out? Is he acting according to his principles, or is there something more going on here?

Chew on This

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.

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