Epistolary, realist, psychological


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.


The tone varies; Clarissa and Belford’s letters tend to be serious, while Lovelace and Anna’s are humorous and sometimes ironic.



Setting (time) 

Mid-eighteenth century

Setting (place) 

The English countryside; London


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.


Lovelace’s rape of Clarissa determines the final outcome of the plot, including her death and his downfall.

Falling action 

Clarissa escapes Lovelace and begins to prepare herself for death and heaven.


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.