full title · Clarissa, or The History of a Young Lady
author · Samuel Richardson
type of work · Novel
genre · Epistolary, realist, psychological
language · English
time and place written · 1740s, London
date of first publication · 1747–1748 (7 serial volumes)
publisher · Samuel Richardson
narrator · None. The plot is presented in a series of letters written by the characters.
point of view · The story is told in a series of letters, giving the point of view of several characters. The characters provide information about one another, but there is no omniscient or objective narrator.
tone · Varies; Clarissa and Belford’s letters tend to be serious, while Lovelace and Anna’s are humorous and sometimes ironic.
tense · Present
setting (time) · Mid-eighteenth century
setting (place) · The English countryside; London
protagonist · Clarissa Harlowe
major conflict · Clarissa struggles to maintain her virtue against Lovelace’s plots and violence.
rising action · The Harlowe family, by trying to force Clarissa into a bad marriage, propels her into Lovelace’s control.
climax · Lovelace’s rape of Clarissa determines the final outcome of the plot, including her death and his downfall.
falling action · After the rape Clarissa escapes Lovelace and begins to prepare herself for death and heaven.
themes · The danger of rakes, virtue is rewarded eventually, a single false step brings disaster
motifs · Enclosure, dreams, money
symbols · Beauty, angels/devils, animals
foreshadowing · Before running away with Lovelace Clarissa dreams that he stabs her and throws her into a grave, foreshadowing that he will cause her death. Lovelace dreams about Clarissa ascending to heaven while he falls into hell, foreshadowing their fates in the afterlife.