The January letters have been full of introductions to the main characters and we begin to see their traits revealed. Clarissa has spoken for herself as the main letter writer so far. Her virtuous character is well evident. We've met the other characters primarily through Clarissa's viewpoint. I look forward to meeting Lovelace through his own voice. Is he the cad that he is made out to be or can he explain himself?
The conflict is set up in these first few letters, and I already fear for Clarissa. She is clearly a young lady with an independent streak, but she does not appear to be rash. This makes the Harlowe family's suspicions of her perplexing. It is evident that she is not inclined toward Lovelace. Her family should be familiar with her honest and virtuous character, yet they suspect her of untoward behavior. Not only that, but we have reason to believe that the gossip mills have already begun, as Miss Howe indicates through her letters.
The pressure put upon Clarissa to be a paragon of virtue is immense, as pointed out by Miss Howe (in what I perceive to be a snarky tone directed at those "other eyes", but perhaps I'm merely projecting?):
"You see what you draw upon yourself by excelling all your sex. Every individual of it who knows you, or has heard of you, seems to think you answerable to her for your conduct in points so very delicate and concerning. Every eye, in short, is upon you with the expectation of an example."
This scrutiny is, of course, unasked for and again Miss Howe points out that Clarissa is "desirous ... of sliding through life to the end of it unnoted; and ... not wishing to be observed even for [her] silent benevolence; sufficiently happy in the noble consciousness which rewards it: Rather useful than glaring, [is her] motto; though now pushed into blaze ... to [her] regret; and yet blamed at home for the faults of others. How must such a virtue suffer on every hand!"
Is that foreshadowing or what!