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Lovelace intercepts a letter from Anna, who expresses
puzzlement at learning from Mrs. Townsend, who arrived at Mrs. Moore’s ready
to rescue Clarissa, that Clarissa has gone back to Mrs. Sinclair’s.
She asks for an explanation of her behavior, hinting that if Clarissa
has given up her fight against Lovelace, but is not married to him,
their friendship must be at an end. Lovelace does not give the letter
to Clarissa. She demands that he let her go away, but he convinces
her to stay until the following Thursday, when her uncle is supposedly
coming to see her married. Clarissa thinks her uncle’s arrival will
allow her to throw herself into his protection, so she agrees to
Unable to make any progress with Clarissa through love
or gentleness, Lovelace goes back to his tricks and puts Dorcas’s
note to effect. He pretends to find it and to be enraged, drawing
his sword on Dorcas and shouting at her for betraying his trust.
There is a great commotion, with all of the whores and servants
adding to the fuss. Dorcas runs to Clarissa’s door for help, and
when she steps outside, her natural majesty awes everyone into silence.
She chastises Lovelace for the contrivance and excoriates the women,
whom she now recognizes as whores, for the parts they have played
in her downfall. Clarissa threatens to go to the law for vengeance.
This frightens the women, and they pretend to take Clarissa’s side.
Lovelace advances on Clarissa, begging forgiveness, but
she is frightened and thinks he is going to rape her again. She
holds a penknife to her chest and is ready to kill herself, but
Lovelace, terrified himself, retreats. He admits that it had been
his original design to force her back to her bedroom and see if
he could complete the plan that her unconsciousness had made impossible
before. Having failed, and seeing Clarissa’s power, he finally gives
up the cohabitation scheme and tells Belton he will really marry
her. He leaves for M. Hall to tend after Lord M.
He writes pleading letters to Clarissa, asking her to
return only four words to say she will marry him on Thursday. She
will not answer. Lovelace keeps four messengers in constant motion
to keep up the flow of letters to Clarissa. His uncle seems about
to die. He asks Belford to visit Clarissa and intercede for him,
but Belford refuses because he doubts Lovelace’s honesty. He then
asks Tomlinson to go to Clarissa, which he does but finds that she
has escaped. At this point, Belford and another friend, Mowbray,
are at Mrs. Sinclair’s, trying to make sense of the matter. Clarissa
had offered to give the maid Mabel some of her clothes, and while
they were changing had taken Mabel’s clothes and left the house
in them. Those at the house had been deceived, as they could see
her only from the back, and it takes a while before the mixup is
discovered. Clarissa is not to be found.
Lovelace writes in distress that Clarissa must be found
and that he will marry her as soon as he can. He also mentions his
disappointment that his uncle is recovering. Clarissa writes a barely
coherent letter to Anna, saying she has escaped again but hinting
that she has been ruined. In her confused state, Clarissa forgets
to send the letter to the false name and address they’ve been using,
so Mrs. Howe gets ahold of it. She writes a scathing letter in return,
forbidding her to communicate with Anna and moralizing on the costs
of disobedience to parents. Clarissa writes back meekly, asking
for news of Anna’s health, since Lovelace’s forged letter had claimed
that an illness prohibited Anna from writing. Clarissa also writes
to Hannah, asking her to come see her, and to Mrs. Norton to ask
whether Mr. Harlowe might be willing to lift the curse on his daughter,
which she says has already been fulfilled on earth. Mrs. Norton
replies that her family is still unforgiving. Clarissa writes to
Lady Betty and to her uncle’s housekeeper to find out the truth
about Lovelace’s tricks. They confirm that Lovelace had been lying.
Anna sees the letter that had been intercepted by her
mother and blames Clarissa for her ruin. She asks Clarissa to clear
up the story if she can. Clarissa says she did not receive the letters
Anna mentions and explains as much as she knows about how she was
deceived. Anna laments Clarissa’s horrible fate and encourages her
to prosecute Lovelace. Clarissa declares that she’s dying, and Anna beseeches
Clarissa not to give way to her sorrow. Clarissa refuses to go to
court, saying she could not bear to repeat her story in public and
that all appearances are against her, as it may seem she had voluntarily
run off and lived with Lovelace before the rape.
Lovelace is in despair, saying he cannot see beauty in
any other woman. Nevertheless, he pretends to be cheerful and saucy
when his aunt and cousin confront him with his deception, and he
seems to enjoy his ability to manipulate them. He convinces them
to help him marry Clarissa. They decide to appeal to Anna for help,
and when they visit her, Anna agrees with them that marrying Lovelace
is Clarissa’s best option. She encourages Clarissa to consider it,
but before she gets any reply, she also writes to Lovelace’s cousin,
Charlotte Montague, frantically inquiring about Clarissa, who has
disappeared from her lodgings. Lovelace discovers that the whores, thinking
they were acting for his benefit, had Clarissa arrested for money
owed them from her past lodgings at Mrs. Sinclair’s. Lovelace frantically
implores Belford to hurry to the prison and get Clarissa out and
also to clear him of involvement in this plot. He gets his aunts
and cousins to sign onto a letter to Anna, explaining his innocence
in this episode.
Clarissa continues to show her power as she defeats Lovelace’s attempt
to rape her by seeing through his trick, awes him and his minions
with her dignity, and is ready to kill herself to avoid dishonor.
He is finally vanquished, swearing that he will marry Clarissa at
last. Clarissa also succeeds in making and carrying out a clever
plan for escape, and for the first time she avoids capture in Lovelace’s
web. Although she writes to Anna in confusion and makes a mistake
by sending it into the reach of Mrs. Howe, Clarissa prevails with
them without any pleading or lamenting: she writes to them with
dignity and tells her story without sniveling. She blames herself
for her rashness in writing to Lovelace in the first place and in leaving
her parents’ house, but she gives Lovelace his full share of blame
for his villainous trickery.
Thinking she is going to die soon, Clarissa is free from
any hope or desire other than the lifting of her father’s curse.
Because the curse included a wish for her punishment in the afterlife,
and because Clarissa thinks the part of it that applied to living
life had been completely accomplished, she is terrified of it.
As Clarissa gains in power, Lovelace loses his. His tricks
no longer work on her, not even when he has all the whores of Mrs.
Sinclair’s brothel helping him. She at last manages to successfully escape
from him, and his barrage of pleading letters has no effect, even
though they are for the first time in earnest. Belford, his best friend,
refuses a request from him, and Clarissa reveals his cruel tricks
to his own family. Lovelace loses his coming inheritance when Lord
M. gets well again, and, most strikingly, his own contrivances begin
to work against him when Mrs. Sinclair and her whores launch Clarissa’s
arrest. His star is fading quickly, and nothing seems to be working
in his favor.
This section reconfigures the allegiances and connections between
the novel’s characters; all now finally seem to be stepping forward
on Clarissa’s behalf. Belford is now unambiguously on Clarissa’s
side and refuses to help Lovelace. The whores, previously Lovelace’s
assistants in crime, are now unintentionally working against him.
Clarissa, previously intimidated by Lovelace’s family, contacts
Lady Betty directly and explains her case. Lovelace’s family is
still willing to help him, but only to do Clarissa justice, and
in collaboration with Anna Howe. Mrs. Norton and Hannah reappear
as Clarissa’s still-faithful friends. Clarissa’s family remains
on the edges of the scene, unchanged in their obstinacy. Nevertheless,
the balance of allegiances has shifted from Lovelace’s corner to
Nevertheless, Clarissa is the real loser in the eyes of
the world; her will may be inviolate and her virtue pure, but she
is still a ruined woman. Anna’s and Mrs. Howe’s initial responses
to her reveal this: although they are eventually won over, even
Clarissa’s best friend and her mother reject her at first. That
Anna, especially, would be so ready to condemn her best friend,
whose virtue she has never doubted, shows just how serious was the
situation of a woman who was raped. Clarissa’s only respectable
option would be to immediately marry her rapist, which would bind
her to a man who had committed an unspeakable violence against her.
It is implied that anyone but Clarissa would have done this if she
had the chance—that is, if the rapist would consent to marriage.
Clarissa’s refusal to marry Lovelace is evidence of her exceptionality:
She will remain pure, but as a consequence she will have no chance
of worldly happiness.
Clarissa and Anna both suggest the legal system as a possible
avenue for justice. Clarissa threatens Lovelace with it before his
second rape attempt, and although it has no effect on Lovelace,
it does scare the whores. Their livelihood depends on insulation
from the legal system, so Clarissa could easily bring down their
establishment. Anna recommends prosecution as a way to keep Lovelace
from hurting any other women—including Anna, who knows Lovelace has
reason to take revenge on her. Clarissa will not do it, however,
as her delicacy recoils at the public nature of the trial, just
as it did when Anna suggested that Clarissa make a legal claim for
her estate. Furthermore, Clarissa recognizes how well Lovelace has
protected himself. Every appearance is against Clarissa, and the
only witnesses to the reality of the situation are on his side.
Lovelace shows no fear of the law, but he is clearly aware of it
enough to protect himself by manipulating the evidence of his crime.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Clarissa!