Adversity is your shining-time: I see evidently that it must call forth graces and beauties that could not have been seen in a run of that prosperous fortune which attended you from your cradle till now.”
Anna writes this to Clarissa when Clarissa is confined at Mrs. Sinclair’s, unsure of Lovelace’s intentions and confused about what path to take. Throughout the novel there are suggestions that suffering and adversity polish and perfect a person in a way that nothing else can; nobody can be flawless without having suffered. The visual theme of shining becomes more evident as Clarissa gets closer to death, especially when she is in dark places like the prison and Mrs. Sinclair’s house.
Suffering acts as a crucible for the people who undergo it: Belton and Mrs. Sinclair, for example, respond to their suffering by descending to animalistic horror, while Clarissa is made pure by it. Adversity also gives Clarissa a chance to show what she’s really made of, as Anna mentions. While Clarissa was happy that she had never previously had to display her fortitude, the truth is that her strength was never tested. As she nears death, Clarissa expresses gratefulness for her troubles, which, she says, have prepared her for heaven and allowed her to enter the afterlife sooner. Suffering, then, is actually a kind of gift when it is given to those who can bear it.