Clarissa

Main Ideas

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.