Clarissa Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Harlowe home

Harlowe home. Country estate of wealthy English gentry, near the village of St. Albans, to the northwest of London, it is presided over by a tyrannical patriarch, and its gardens are enclosed by an iron gate. It represents an Eden from which the heroine is lured by the satanic Lovelace into disobeying her father. It also represents the heroine’s virginal body and mind, locked against Lovelace. Eventually, she is tricked by Lovelace into opening the gate and is abducted by him in the fatal error that begins her tragedy. The Harlowe home should offer a haven from the world for Clarissa, but it is so fraught with conflict that it becomes her first site of persecution when her siblings turn against her in jealousy, and her father tries to force her to marry a wealthy but odious man. After she forfeits her father’s protection, she is never perfectly safe from Lovelace again.

St. Albans inn

St. Albans inn. The first stop after Lovelace abducts Clarissa in a coach. Lovelace pretends that they are brother and sister and makes up a story to explain why Clarissa has no luggage and is angry at him. Clarissa is frantic to get herself out of Lovelace’s “protection,” while Lovelace himself, peeved by her romantic resistance of him, resolves to carry her to a location that he controls.

Mrs. Sinclair’s brothel

Mrs. Sinclair’s brothel. House on London’s Norfolk Street. Lovelace gives Clarissa a choice of places to go, recommending London, ironically, for the privacy it can offer her. He invents letters attesting the character of the widow Sinclair’s house,...

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Clarissa Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Castle, Terry. Clarissa’s Ciphers: Meaning and Disruption in Richardson’s “Clarissa.” Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1982. An influential book, which provides an interpretation from the points of view of feminism and reader-response criticism. On the alleged textual incoherence in Clarissa, Castle asks: How can one expect coherence from a violated woman?

Doody, Margaret Anne. Chapters V through IX in A Natural Passion: A Study of the Novels of Samuel Richardson. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1974. Provides lively, informative, and authoritative discussion of themes and imagery in Clarissa. The source of much sympathetic interpretation of Clarissa and Richardson’s other novels.

Goldberg, Rita. Sex and Enlightenment: Women in Richardson and Diderot. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1984. Highly intelligent discussion of Clarissa as a “mythic” book—a model for young women to follow. Examines the consequences to young women and their society of attempting to adhere to the prescribed model.

Hill, Christopher. “Clarissa Harlowe and Her Times.” In Samuel Richardson: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by John Carroll. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1968. The seminal account of the social background of the novel. Includes examination of the economy, Puritanism, and attitudes toward the individual, the family, and marriage.

Warner, William Beatty. Reading Clarissa: The Struggles of Interpretation. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979. Uses deconstructionist approach to question any supposed need to establish a single authoritative text to Clarissa. Argues for the aptness of the novel’s conflicting texts. Claims that Lovelace is the hero of the novel.