Clarissa

by: Samuel Richardson

Important Quotations Explained

2
Oh my dear, what a poor, passive machine is the body when the mind is disordered!”

Clarissa writes this to Anna when she is describing her forced interview with Solmes, referring to her faintness and trembling. The body acts as an outward manifestation of the mind, so that only one whose mind is at ease can be physically at ease. The word machine points to the mechanical, spiritless character of the body, drawing attention to the superiority of mind to matter even when it cannot fully control it. This quotation also reflects Clarissa’s disregard for the physical, or material, world. While most of the characters in the novel are fixated either on wealth (the Harlowes, Solmes, Mrs. Sinclair) or sex (Lovelace, Mrs. Sinclair and her whores), Clarissa shows no real concern for either, indicating that she is meant more for the spiritual world than for the earthly one.

The close relationship between the body and the mind is emphasized throughout the book. Clarissa tends to collapse when she receives a shock, such as the news of her father’s curse. Her blushes and tears are also, in general, out of her control. Her physical weakness sometimes undermines her intentions, as when she ends up in Lovelace’s arms after being frightened by the fire at Mrs. Sinclair’s. After the rape, Clarissa’s body begins to waste away, but her spirit strengthens, and she becomes more powerful and in control than ever: she plans every detail surrounding her death, from her will to the designs on her coffin, and she is increasingly described as appearing angelic or heavenly. Her death itself seems to be from causes that are more mental than physical.