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Clarrisa and Romantic Escape

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Clarrisa and Romantic Escape Clarissa is seen as a handbook on moral "behaviour" for its contemporary readers. Keeping to the notion that art should both instruct and entertain, Clarissa maintains an explicit moral agenda at the risk of overshadowing an overly dramatic narrative framed within instructional rhetoric in the same manner that Clarissa herself is stuck within her own overly virtuous code system. This system is based in the patriarchal authority of family, community, and government that she is unable to reconcile, either physically or politically. Richardson's tutorial has a catch, because although he "teaches" against youthful capriciousness and parental oppression - his stated goal - he simultaneously turns the power of decency and gentility inside out to show how the very codes by which this bourgeois family continue their lofty place and position will also serve to bring them down. The implication of virtue as the epitome of goodness and inner-power reveals the falseness of the ideology that both promotes and destroys the only goodness it knows: Clarissa. Ultimately, she responds by committing a virtuous suicide to achieve a solace from the world of her physical oppression and instead achieve a "better place." ...read more.


The more materially successful the Harlowe's become, the more they fail as a family. Anna Howe asserts, "You are too rich to be happy, child . . . (19). " This irony, that unchecked ambition and upward mobility are destructive, foreshadows the Romantic ideal of the honest common man, rural, good, and unfettered by material falsity. Clarissa seemingly embodies this Romantic ideal. She finds her peace outside of Harlowe House in the natural, pastoral surroundings of the "dairy house" built for her by her grandfather on the Harlowe grounds. Secluded in a grove away from the family house, the dairy house produces a natural, honest product through hands-on labor. It allows her to retain the innocence of a country wife, a simple, virtuous milkmaid, within the confines of her bourgeois existence. True to form, she raises peafowl near the outskirts where she maintains contact with the outside world via her elaborate postal system: a loose brick in the wall that both separates her from and joins her with Lovelace's world of unrestrained sensuality and desire. ...read more.


In the end she asks, "O Death! Where is thy sting? . . . It is good for me that I was afflicted," exclamations that Belford "supposes" to be "words of scripture," rather than her own. But, whether scriptural or literary, Clarissa's last words make up the voice of Romantic desperation and thus bring to a close her earthly misery in a suicide of the will. The instructional purpose in Clarissa, claims Richardson, is to "caution parents in the undue exertion" of parental right regarding marriage and to warn children against "preferring a man of pleasure against a man of probity" (xx). The vehicle for this instruction is in the moral "fable" of a recalcitrant child, an ambitious family, and an un-reformable rake. In turn, the lesson within Richardson's lesson represents the futility of the gentry's struggle to attain a greater noble status. Additionally, he shows how the price that one must pay for virtue's sacrifice may be well beyond the capacity of anyone who retains a sense of the unrelenting innocence and idealism that was personified in Clarissa Harlowe. ?? ?? ?? ?? 2 ...read more.

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