Letters 18-20 Summary

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When Clarissa visits with her mother in her room the next day, she notices a change in her mother's attitude. Her mother appears more emotionally removed than she had been the day before. At one point, she even refers to Clarissa's father as "Mr. Harlowe," causing Clarissa to question if her father has already disowned her.

This makes Clarissa cry, to which her mother reacts with the statement that she has always disliked seeing someone cry about circumstances that they could control. Then Mrs. Harlowe tells her daughter to return to her room until her emotions are under control.

Before she leaves, Clarissa attempts to persuade her mother not to retract her feelings from her. However, Mrs. Harlowe reminds Clarissa that everyone in the family knows how eloquent Clarissa is. She would rather that Clarissa responded to her father's demands with actions rather than words.

Clarissa falls to her mother's feet and wraps her arms around her mother's legs, refusing to release her until she promises that she will not stop loving her. Her mother tells her that if she wants her love, then she must be good, by which she means that Clarissa should obey her father's wishes and marry Mr. Solmes. Mrs. Harlowe adds that Clarissa's father refuses to see her until she makes herself worthy of being called his daughter. To earn this worthiness, Clarissa must do as he demands.

In response to Anna's questions in her recent letter, Clarissa tells her friend that she is well aware of Arabella's jealousy concerning both Mr. Lovelace's attention and their grandfather's money, which he has bequeathed to Clarissa alone. As to Mr. Lovelace, Clarissa says that even though her sister, Arabella, was the one who turned down Mr. Lovelace as a suitor, she secretly wanted him and would have accepted him had he not turned his interest to Clarissa. Now Arabella blames Clarissa for stealing him away from her.

As to the grandfather's legacy, Clarissa says that had she known that her father and brother would react so strangely to her actions, she would never have turned the administration of her inheritance over to them. She had sensed the terrible jealousy that was developing in her family and thought that giving her father charge of the money would ease the tensions. She thought her actions would make everyone happy.

She also knew that a financially independent woman is closely watched by not only her family but also by the community. She did not want to be the focus of everyone's attention.

Although Mrs. Harlowe continues to plead to Clarissa to give in to her father's wishes to keep the peace in the family, Clarissa realizes that in terms of wealth and social power, no one is ever satisfied. Even if she did marry Solmes and he gave the family all the wealth and power he has promised, one day would come when even that would not satisfy her brother or father. Their happiness would not last. Her mother's peace would not survive either. Neither wealth nor peace are forever satisfied.

Whereas her mother might suffer from Clarissa's refusal to marry Solmes, that suffering would eventually wear away. However, if Clarissa agrees to wed Solmes, she would be unhappy for the rest of her life. So no matter how much her mother pleads, or how much her father and uncles threaten her, Clarissa has made up her mind never to marry Solmes.

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Letters 16-17 Summary


Letters 21-27 Summary