Clarissa book summary
Clarissa book summary, Samuel Richardson
Or the history of a young lady : Clarissa book summary… İt’s written by Samuel Richardson. Character list, summary bla bla in this subject…
Clarissa book summary
Anna Howe writes to her friend Clarissa Harlowe that a squabble between James Harlowe and Robert Lovelace is widely discussed. But the tragedy is that James, Clarissa’s elder brother, is wounded, and Anna asks Clarissa to tell her about that event, and on behalf of her mother asks to send her a copy of Clarissa’s grandfather’s will, where he has decided to give all his property to Clarissa, but none of his sons or another grandchildren.
Clarissa in her answer describes in detail everything that has happened, starting with how Lovelace appeared in their house. Clarissa was not present at the events described; she got to know everything from her elder sister Arabella, who has decided that a distinguished aristocrat has put an eye on her. Without ceremony she tells Clarissa about her plans. But later she understood that young man’s restrain and silent civility shows no interest to Arabella. The delights changed into an open hostility, which was supported by her their brother. James always was jealous of Lovelace (as Clarissa noticed unmistakably), and his aristocratic refinement and ease at communication, which cannot be gained with the help of money, but only by the origin. So, James started a quarrel, and Lovelace only defended himself. But even though, Lovelace was refused to be welcomed in their house.
The promised copy attached to the letter, it becomes obvious that the Hallows is a rather wealthy family. The deceased’s three sons, including Clarissa’s father, dispose of considerable means – mines, commercial capitals, and other. Clarissa’s brother is secured by his godmother. Clarissa, in her turn, who since her childhood has been taking care after the old gentleman, thus prolonged his days, is pronounced the only heiress. From the next letters one can learn about the other items in the will. In particular, that when Clarissa is 18 years old, she can order the inherited property as she thinks best.
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The Harlowes are indignant. Anthony, her father’s brother, tells his niece (in his answer to her letter) that the rights on Clarissa’s acres all the members of the family received before she has been born. Her mother, carrying out her husband’s will, threatened that the girl would not be able to use her property. All the threats were to make Clarissa reject the inheritance and marry Roger Solmes. The Harlowes know about Solmes’ stinginess, greed and cruelty. It is not a secret that he has refused his own sister a help, because he got married without his agreement.
The Lovelace’s family possesses a considerable influence, so the Harlowe family decides not to break off with them at once, in order not to spoil their relationships with Lord M. at any case, Clarissa’s correspondence with Lovelace began on the her family’s request. The young man could not help falling in love in a 16-year-old girl possessing the beautiful writing style, and differs in the correctness of her judgments. Later, from the Lovelace’s letters to his friend John Belfold the reader learns about the true feelings of a young man, and how they have been changing under the moral virtues of a young girl.
Clarissa persists in her intention not to marry Solmes, and rejects any accusations for being involved with Lovelace. The family tries to suppress Clarissa’s obstinacy in a rather cruel way. Her room is searched for the letters to establish her guilt, and her entrusted maid is sent away. Her attempts to find support in any member of the family have no success. Clarissa’s family is ready for any pretence to deprive their daughter of any support from the people around her. As later Lovelace wrote to his comrade, that all the Harlowes had done enough for the girl to respond to his attentions. He settled not far from the Harlows’ mansion under an assumed name. Lovelace provided himself with a spy in the Harlows’ house, who reported him on everything what happened there. Clarissa did not suspect about the Lovelace’s true intentions, who had chosen her as a tool of revenge. Her destiny did not concern him at all.
At the coaching inn, where settled down a young gentleman, lives a young girl, whose youth and naivety Lovelace admired. He noticed, that she was in love with a next door boy, but there were no chances for this marriage to happen, as the boy was promised a considerable sum if he married a girl chosen by his family. Charming girl without a dowry cannot count on anything. This all Lovelace informs to his friend and asks him to be respectful to the poor on his arrival.
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Anna Howe, when learnt about Lovelace living with a young girl, warns Clarissa not to keen on the shameless lady-killer. Clarissa wants to be sure of the truthfulness of the rumors, and asks Anna to talk with a supposed beloved. With a great delight Anna reports to Clarissa that the gossips are false, and that Lovelace did not seduce an innocent girl, but even provided her with a dowry of a size of one hundred guineas, which were promised to her groom.
The relatives watching that none of the persuasions and oppressions have effect on Clarissa, decide to send her to their uncle, and the only visitor will be Mr. Solmes. It means that Clarissa is doomed. She tells about it, and Lovelace proposes to run away. Clarissa is sure it is not a right way, but being moved by one of his letters decides to tell him this in person. With great difficulty she gets to the agreed place, as her walks in the garden are watched by all the members of the family. There she meets, as she supposes, her devoted friend. He tries to surmount her resistance and carries her to the previously prepared carriage. He manages to fulfill his plan, as Clarissa is sure they are chased. She hears the voice beside the garden gate sees a persecutor and then instinctively yields; Lovelace continues repeating that her departure means marriage with Solmes. Only from Lovelace’s letter the reader learns that imaginary persecutor began to break in by Lovelace’s agreed signal.
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Clarissa did not at once understand that she had been kidnapped, as everything was in a way Lovelace had described her before. They were awaited by two gentleman’s noble kinswomen, who turned out to be his accomplices, and helped him to keep Clarissa in an awful den.
At first Lovelace continues to pretend, proposing to Clarissa and forgetting about it, making Clarissa feel between hope and doubt. Having left her parents’ house Clarissa in fully under Lovelace’s power as the social opinion was on his side.
Both Clarissa and Lovelace describe the same events, but interpreting them differently, and the reader understands that they both are mistaken as to the true intentions and feelings of each other.
Lovelace himself in his letters to Bolford describes in details Clarissa’s words and deeds. He reasons a lot on the relationship between men and women. He is sure that in their decline nine out of ten women are themselves to be blamed, and that having once subdued a woman, one can wait from her obedience in the further. His letters are full with historic examples and unexpected comparisons. Clarissa’s persistence annoys him, none of the tricks work on her, she stays indifferent to any temptation. The girl is not sure in the sincerity and seriousness of his feelings. Then Lovelace decides to rape Clarissa, having poisoned her with a sleeping potion. Now Clarissa is deprived of any kind of illusions, however she manages to save the former hardness and rejects all the Lovelace’s tries to make up for what he had done. Her attempt to run away fails. Lovelace at last enlighten and what he has done terrifies him, but nothing can be changed.
Clarissa prefers death to the marriage with a dishonorable man. She sells her clothes to buy herself a coffin, writes farewell letters, makes a will and dies. The will witnesses that Clarissa has forgiven everyone, who had committed her evil. She starts with a wish to be buried next to her grandfather. She forgets none of her relatives, and asks not to pursue Lovelace.
In despair Lovelace leaves England. From the letter to Balford it becomes known that Lovelace died, after being wounded after the duel, in great torments and with the words of atonement on his lips.
A virtuous young woman, the protagonist of the novel. Clarissa is noted for her exceptional beauty, virtue, and accomplishments. She is considered an “exemplar,” a model of female behavior, by everyone around her. She has very strict ideas of duty and morality, and she particularly enjoys taking care of the neighborhood poor. Although Clarissa is so endearing that most people can tolerate her obvious superiority, her older brother and sister are jealous of her, especially after Clarissa inherits an estate upon her grandfather’s death.
Robert Lovelace – A dashing rake, the antagonist of the novel. Lovelace is of good family, handsome, brave, intelligent, and highly accomplished. He loves to write and does so with great skill. He has a history of seducing many women, all of whom subsequently either died in childbirth or became whores. He is in love with Clarissa, but he also sees her as a challenge for his powers of seduction. His admiration of her virtue is an additional instigation for him to try to conquer it.
Clarissa’s best friend, her confidante, and sometimes her foil. Anna is vivacious and flippant in contrast to Clarissa’s seriousness. She treats everyone, including her mother and her suitor, Hickman, with a freedom that is sometimes offensive or cruel. She sometimes teases Clarissa, especially about her concealed feelings for Lovelace, but she respects and loves her completely.
Lovelace’s best friend, also a rake. Belford and Lovelace have a habit of correspondence that echoes that between Clarissa and Anna, but the two men write to each other in a secret shorthand that only they know. This allows them to freely discuss their libertine activities. Despite his lifestyle, Belford has a conscience, and his exposure to Clarissa gradually puts him on her side and against Lovelace, although he continues to be Lovelace’s friend.
The madam of a London whorehouse. Mrs. Sinclair is a monstrous creature, enormous, masculine, and wicked. Clarissa is repelled by Mrs. Sinclair, even though she believes her to be a respectable widow. An aura of sin surrounds her, such that as soon as Lovelace enters her house he finds all of his good intentions slipping away, although they return to some extent when he is away. Mrs. Sinclair is instrumental in the ruin of Clarissa.
Mr. (James) Harlowe, Sr.
Father of Clarissa, Arabella, and James, authoritarian and unforgiving. Mr. Harlowe’s bad temper is attributed to his gout, and he most frequently appears off-scene, vexing and incensed outside the main action of the novel. He is anxious about his family’s newfound wealth, reputation, and social position and will tolerate no disobedience from his children.
James Harlowe, Jr.
Clarissa’s older brother, proud, ambitious, and resentful. James is neither very brave nor very intelligent, but he is fiercely proud and responds violently to anything that he perceives as threatening to his reputation or prospects.
Mrs. (Charlotte) Harlowe
Clarissa’s mother, loving but passive. Mrs. Harlowe will not defy her husband, even when she disagrees with him. She resents Clarissa for causing trouble in the family, even as she pities her situation.
Arabella Harlowe – Clarissa’s sister, envious and bad tempered. Arabella is inferior to Clarissa in beauty and character and suffers from the shadow of her younger sister. Like her father and brother, Arabella overvalues money and reputation and is therefore doubly resentful of Clarissa’s inheritance.
Mrs. (Judith) Norton
Clarissa’s nurse, a pious woman. Well educated and well-bred, Mrs. Norton has fallen on hard times, although she was responsible for most of Clarissa’s education and sense of morality that grow into such impressive virtue.
Clarissa’s cousin and a trustee of her estate. Morden is abroad for most of the novel, while the Harlowes wait for him to arbitrate their conflict. He is comparable to Lovelace in bravery and skill and also has somewhat of a shady past.
Anna’s suitor, respectable but unexciting. Anna constantly mocks Hickman for his over-formal manners, but he patiently persists in his suit. When Clarissa leaves home, Hickman offers help, despite the risk of incurring the anger of Mrs. Howe.
Uncle (John) Harlowe, Antony Harlowe, Aunt (Dorothy) Hervey
Clarissa’s uncles and aunts. The all love Clarissa but will not help her against the wishes of Mr. Harlowe.
Roger Solmes – A rich, ugly, unappealing man. Except for the money he would bring into the family, Solmes is a completely inappropriate match for Clarissa. He is concerned with money above all else, mistreating his servants and even his family when it helps him advance in the world.
Lord M., Lady Betty, Lady Charlotte, and Patty Montague – Lovelace’s relatives, well-bred, refined, and respected in society. In addition to their high social position, the family is esteemed for the merit of its individuals. They have heard of Clarissa’s virtue and would like to include her in their family despite her lower social rank.
Captain Tomlinson – The false name of Patrick McDonald, one of Lovelace’s accomplices in deceit. Tomlinson is an expert actor and convinces Clarissa of his sincerity. He has qualms about playing the part Lovelace has given him, but he plays it perfectly nevertheless.
Sally Martin, Polly Horton, Dorcas Wykes
Whores in Mrs. Sinclair’s brothel. Sally and Polly were ruined by Lovelace and want to see Clarissa suffer the same fate. Their mockery helps keep Lovelace on the path of wickedness.
Joseph Leman, Betty Barnes, Hannah Burton – Servants of the Harlowes. Joseph also works for Lovelace as a spy, and Betty, his girlfriend, is Arabella’s maid and treats Clarissa rudely. Hannah, by contrast, is faithful to Clarissa.
Mrs. Moore, Widow Bevis, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Lovick
Keepers and guests of houses where Clarissa stays. All are decent people, although some are deceived by Lovelace and work against Clarissa.
Mrs. Howe – Anna’s mother, courted by Antony Harlowe. Mrs. Howe struggles for control over her daughter and forbids her from helping Clarissa. While not a bad woman, she is a shallow and selfish one.
Themes, Motifs, and Symbols
THE IMMORAL RAKE VERSUS THE INNOCENT HEROINE
Richardson identifies the moral of his novel as a contradiction of the precept that “a reformed rake makes the best husband.” This misconception, he says, leads young women to prefer libertines to sober, respectable men. The contrast between the dashing and wicked Lovelace and the boring but good Hickman exemplifies the ease with which this mistake can be made. Clarissa blames her pride, in thinking she could reform Lovelace, for leading her into disaster. Her parents are also to blame, as their autocratic measures push her right into Lovelace’s web; the implication is that parents need to shepherd their daughters away from danger, because young girls are unlikely to escape it on their own.
Clarissa’s innocence is continually contrasted with Lovelace’s diabolical talent for manipulation, and several passages discuss the hopeless position of any girl who gives any encouragement to a rake. As a whole, the novel provides a cautionary lesson for young women and their parents and brands rakes as the scourge of society.
THE INDIVIDUAL VERSUS SOCIETY
Clarissa’s great struggle is for a sense of autonomy in a society that prohibits women from wielding any power whatsoever. The Harlowes intend to use their daughter to heighten their rank in the bourgeois community; by contrast, all Clarissa desires is the right to personal happiness and her parent’s consent. At the start of the novel, Clarissa’s inheritance presents her with an opportunity for independence from both her family and a future husband; however, Clarissa cares more about her family’s acceptance than about the property. In this sense, her struggle for autonomy is also a struggle with herself. If she had accepted the estate, Clarissa would have achieved independence from her family and the oppressive society in which she lives; her inherent loyalty to them and to social mores prevents her from doing so.
Although at first Lovelace seems a reasonable means of escape for Clarissa, it quickly becomes clear to her that his intentions are even more prohibitory to her independence. Lovelace ensnares her in hopes of conquering such an exemplary woman: all of his machinations further his mission to control her and triumph over her sex. Clarissa is trapped by both factions of society: the fledgling and insecure bourgeois family and her already aristocratic suitor. She also spends most of the novel physically confined by others (locked in her parents’ house, in Mrs. Sinclair’s house, in Lovelace’s arms, in jail) and only in planning for death does Clarissa seem to gain complete control over the future.
THE REWARDS OF VIRTUE AND THE PUNISHMENTS OF EVIL
With the exception of Clarissa, every character in the novel is either rewarded or punished on earth. Good people get married (Anna, Hickman, Belford), while bad people die in misery (Lovelace, Mr. and Mrs. Harlowe, Mrs. Sinclair, Belton) or suffer horrible marriages (James, Arabella). Clarissa dies, too, but her death is happy and she insists that it is actually a reward, because it allows her to go to heaven. Although the other characters do not have to wait for death to provide justice, their fates are delayed, so that at many points it looks as though vice is rewarded while virtue is punished. This, as Richardson tells us, is only realistic. But he assures us that there is always justice in the end.
Although Lovelace seems to die honorably in a duel, an old-fashion match marked by chivalry and grace, he has actually been subject to twists of fate that highlight his punishments and his ultimate poetic justice. Lovelace’s demise is inadvertently triggered by the actions of friends and accomplices; for instance, Sinclair’s prostitutes, his coconspirators, have Clarissa arrested and his spy, Joseph Leman, sends Lovelace a letter about Morden’s trip to France. Both are intended to help him but instead provoke his downfall. On the other hand, Belford, a model of character and reform, receives the rewards in the end that were initially intended for Lovelace. That both men reach appropriate ends is evidence that Clarissa’s sense of justice is truly poetic.
At the beginning of the novel, Clarissa’s movements are increasingly limited by her family: she cannot write letters or go to church, and she is confined to her room, with a maid guarding her. Her escape from this confinement results in an even greater one, with her actions restricted by Lovelace. Enclosure sometimes seems like safety, as when Clarissa locks herself in her room, but more often it indicates her trapped position. Clarissa finally escapes after her rape, but enclosure continues to follow her until the end. As she nears death, Clarissa stops taking carriages, then she stops walking, then she does not leave her room, then she is confined to a chair—and, finally, to her coffin. In the book’s conclusion, it becomes clear that Clarissa can only escape confinement in death. The enclosure of Clarissa’s body into her coffin paradoxically reflects the freeing of her soul.
Both Lovelace and Clarissa have significant dreams. Just before she runs away with Lovelace, Clarissa dreams that he has stabbed her and thrown her into a grave with other decaying bodies, and she is frightened enough to take back her intention to escape with him, although Lovelace will not allow her to do so. As Clarissa nears death, Lovelace has a dream in which she ascends to heaven, while he descends into a bottomless pit. In both cases these dreams are frightening and act as warnings, but Clarissa’s dream does not keep her safe and Lovelace’s does not make him reform. Similar to Clarissa’s “mad papers” and the letters that Lovelace writes while delirious, dreams offer a window into a character’s innermost self, which sometimes knows more than his or her conscious mind.
A preoccupation with money is a sign of bad character, and greed is frequently a motivator behind many of the character’s actions. The Harlowes align with Solmes because of his wealth, while Clarissa thinks his money grubbing is despicable. Mrs. Howe and Uncle Antony’s courtship is based on money and is therefore treated in a ridiculous, even laughable manner. Clarissa constantly refuses offers of money from Anna, Lovelace, and Belford and insists on paying for everything herself even if she must sell her clothes to get money for her coffin. It is to Lovelace’s credit that he is generous and gives money freely. Money is linked to class anxiety: those who have the highest rank tend not to be concerned with money, while those eager to rise in society are overly attentive to it. Mrs. Sinclair is an aggressive businesswoman and represents the grotesqueness of greed in both her wicked actions and in her repulsive, “manly” physical appearance. Clarissa shows that she transcends her social position by having no desire for money at all.
For women, beauty is associated with goodness, but this does not hold true for men. Clarissa is remarkably beautiful, and it is clear that her beauty reveals her ceaseless inner goodness. Even when she is emaciated and near death, Belford calls her a “beautiful skeleton.” On the contrary, the whores at Mrs. Sinclair’s house look nice enough when they are dressed up to look like dignified members of the aristocracy, but when Belford sees them in dishabille he is disgusted by their ugliness. The whores, unlike Clarissa, are vicious and therefore ugly underneath their finery. Lovelace is an exceptionally attractive man, and his good looks go a long way in helping him seduce women and collect minions to help him carry out his contrivances. Belford, on the other hand, is ugly, as Lovelace points out time and again. But in the end, Belford rises above his rakish ways and proves to be a good man, and arguably one of the only characters in the novel who comes to Clarissa’s aid.
Throughout the novel, Clarissa is referred to and described as an angel. Lovelace calls her “my angel” and other people frequently refer to her as a divine woman. She wears white and has an otherworldly goodness that is frequently equated with heaven and the afterlife. Lovelace is determined to defile Clarissa’s purity and prove that she is indeed a woman and not an unearthly being: “And should not my beloved, for her own sake, descend by degrees from goddess-hood into humanity?” On the other hand, Lovelace and Mrs. Sinclair’s whores are associated with devils and demons.
Lovelace frequently calls his servant Will, who assists him in his wicked works, “my devil.” After Lovelace rapes Clarissa, she asserts in a letter that he is “Satan himself.” And Lovelace describes Mrs. Sinclair’s whores as diabolical and calls their establishment a “hellhouse,” which again associates him with Satan or some hellish figure: from his first flight with Clarissa, he is mysteriously drawn to Sinclair’s brothel, the setting of numerous deceits and Clarissa’s ultimate desecration.
References to animals occur throughout the novel and, in contrast to the symbol of the angel, they are always associated with the bestial and with sex. Mrs. Sinclair is most often described as an animal and frequently embodies several at once. Lovelace compares women to chickens, easily tricked into sex, or flies to be trapped in his web. Belford tells Lovelace that to have sex with Clarissa would be a shame, even if he married her first, because it would bring her down to the level of an animal. In the “mad papers” Clarissa writes after her rape, she describes a parable about a lady who attempts to raise and tame a young tiger into a lapdog, only to be savagely shredded to bits once the beast returns to its true nature. This symbolizes her experience with Lovelace, the personification of this vicious