Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Clarissa: Letters 1-6

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!


  1. A perfect quote to end you post, and very definite foreshadowing! I am really anxious to read letters written by the other characters. All we have now is Clarissa's account and it sure seems like she is being treated unfairly. We'll see...

  2. I am really enjoying this so far. And I think that it's pretty admirable of Clarissa to resist the "paragon of virtue" label. Great quote. Looking forward to the February letters!

  3. I've enjoyed reading Clarissa and Anna's letters, but I'm looking forward to hearing the voices of some of the other characters too, particularly Lovelace!

  4. I've been trying to keep in mind that people tend to represent themselves in the most positive light when writing letters, so I wonder if Clarissa does feel an attraction to Lovelace, but she's not admitting it?
    I kind of want Lovelace to be okay. Maybe because I want her horrible family to be wrong! I guess we'll see. I know next to nothing about this book.

  5. Shelley: Her family does seem horrible, don't they?

  6. I'm looking forward to reading letters from other characters as well. It is interesting to think about the point of view of epistolary novels, because you can't quite trust the letter writer to tell the whole truth!

  7. Lindsey: That is true! You can't fully trust the letter writer can you. I hadn't really thought about it that way.