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Key Facts

Main ideas Key Facts

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 · 17471748 (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.