Mr. Harlowe, a domineering man who cannot understand how his children can disobey him. He arranges a loveless marriage for his daughter Clarissa. When she refuses to obey his commands, he locks her in her room, with only an insolent servant allowed to see her. After her elopement with Robert Lovelace, her father disowns her and will not let her have clothes or money. Not until she is dying does he lift his ban and seek a reconciliation.
Clarissa Harlowe, his young and beautiful daughter, who accepts Lovelace’s attentions as a way of escaping from her father’s demands. Thinking that he is taking her to the home of Lord M———, his kinsman, she flees with Lovelace, only to be put into a house of ill repute where, for fear of being tracked down by her father, she claims to be Lovelace’s wife. Once she escapes, only to be dragged back, drugged, and raped. Escaping again, she is caught and jailed for debt. She is freed but goes into a physical decline and buys her casket, inscribed with her death date: the day she left the Harlowe home. Though the repentant Lovelace now wants to marry her, she refuses him. Despite letters from her contrite family—for the whole novel is told in letters—she dies, to the grief and remorse of all.
Arabella, the older Harlowe daughter. She hates Clarissa for attracting her own suitor, Robert Lovelace.
James Harlowe, Clarissa’s older brother, selfish and domineering, like his father. Having known and disliked Lovelace...
(The entire section is 661 words.)