Letters 16-17 Summary

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Clarissa writes to Anna that things have turned worse for her. One of her maids overheard her parents talking. Upon hearing what her parents have discussed, Clarissa feels doomed.

When she goes down for breakfast, her family is waiting for her along with Mr. Solmes. Although no one has made any pronouncements, she senses the tension under everyone's words. Even when she hears her parents speaking in pleasant voices, she knows they are about to announce something grim.

After breakfast, Clarissa meets with her mother, who pleads with Clarissa to comply with her father's wishes. Her mother relies on Clarissa to help her keep peace in the family. If she does not obey her father, the family will be completely disrupted.

When Clarissa begins to sob, her mother is actually relieved, for Clarissa's tears signal that she has already heard the rumors of what is about to occur. If Clarissa does not comply with her father, a man who insists that his wife and children obey him, the family will be ruined, Clarissa's mother says. 

Clarissa's mother leaves the room temporarily to give Clarissa time to collect her emotions. When she returns, she finally tells Clarissa what she has been extremely reluctant to hear. Clarissa must marry Mr. Solmes. Sensing her reluctance to receive his hand in marriage, Clarissa's parents have already acted in her name.

When Clarissa asks her mother how she could be so compliant in this arrangement when she knows that Clarissa does not like Solmes, her mother attempts to make the man more attractive than he is by stating that he is at least honest. Clarissa challenges this concept, stating that he is very dishonest because to win her, Solmes has offered her and her family most of the inheritance that should have gone to other members of Solmes' family. To this, Clarissa's mother says that her daughter should stop seeking perfection in a man.  

Clarissa continues to be reluctant to go downstairs and meet her fate and asks her mother how she can be complicit in a plan that will imprison her heart. In response, Clarissa's mother states that Clarissa, in duty to her family, must let duty govern her mind. 

Clarissa continues to balk at her mother's suggestions. She states that she cannot allow herself to be married to a "monster." She would rather be buried alive. In a less emotional tone, Clarissa tells her mother that she would prefer to live single the rest of her life.

To this her mother responds that her father would never allow that. With Mr. Lovelace hanging around, always searching for an opportunity to be with her, they could not trust him or Clarissa. Then the mother asks if Clarissa has been corresponding with Lovelace. Clarissa admits that she has. However, to prove to her mother that she has written to Lovelace only so he will not become more angry at James or Clarissa's uncles, Clarissa gives her all Lovelace's letters as well as her responses.

After reading the letters, the mother is pleased with her daughter's behavior. She returns the letters, pledging that their correspondence will remain a secret. However, Clarissa must cease writing to Lovelace from now on.

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Letters 18-20 Summary