Clarissa's Way of Death Essay

Clarissa's Way of Death Essay

Length: 4074 words (11.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Clarissa's Way of Death

In Clarissa, Samuel Richardson finds "an exemplar to her sex." But her story does not provide a model to live by, as such a qualification may lead one to expect. Only in the afterlife does Clarissa presumably receive what she deserves. The life suggested by her example is untenable. Clarissa's death is the inevitable result of her unrealistic, unimpeachable virtue ­ a virtue that is defined less by what she does than by what she will permit. Her death serves not only a narrative end in the novel, but the demands of psychological realism. Richardson respects the conclusion made inevitable by the very "divinity" of Clarissa's personality. This heroine can have no other conclusion. Her death-drive is a fundamental aspect of her character, one present since the very beginning of the book.

Though she is an extremely rational heroine, she is not necessarily reasonable. Like all young people, she wants happiness ­ but her idea of it is impossible to live, an almost childish fantasy. Her devotion to "the single life" is not only a resistance to an unwanted match, but a refusal to have her purity blemished. Her purity and her virtue are the building blocks of her selfhood, but these elements have been formed in her childhood, and thus are not directly transferable to the exigencies, and duties, of adult life. In defense of this virtue, Clarissa has an almost morbid streak that prefigures her conclusion. There can be no worldly happiness for Clarissa. Lovelace's crime, in a certain sense, is only incidental. Clarissa can never be married, as she can never accept its corollary, adulthood. Growing up implies a change of state that she cannot reconcile with her established identity.

It is a shock, upon...

... middle of paper ...

...these "trials" is the confirmation of her "divinity".

"The fall of a regular person, no doubt, is dreadful" she writes to her uncle Antony (426). But this is not her situation, not her crime. She herself is not a "regular person", and her fall was not a typical fall: "would to Heaven," she implores later in the letter, "that I had had the circumstances of [my fall] inquired into!" (426-7). Her death is the manifestation of her blamelessness. Death recreates her as immaculate, by proving that a blemished existence is not consistent with her nature. Though she asserts, "I am ruined in my own eyes; and that is the same to me as if all the world knew it" (316), it becomes proof of her transcendence that "all the world" know it. By agreeing to publish her tale after her demise, she has transformed the circumstances of her disgrace into a proof of her greater purity.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Clarissa or The History of a Young Lady Essay

- Clarissa or The History of a Young Lady   In the Johnson age there are many popular writers.  One of these authors is Samuel Richardson, who was a novelist.  His most popular novels were Pamela and Clarissa, which are both constructed of a series of letters.  Clarissa, however, was regarded as one of his most popular European novels.  "His masterpiece, Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady, one of the greatest European novels, was published in 1747-8" (Richardson, 1).   When Richardson wrote Clarissa his intention was to write a novel of a series of letters that were written by an unskilled author.  This book contains 537 letters written by various characters in the novel.  B...   [tags: Clarissa History of a Young Lady]

Free Essays
892 words (2.5 pages)

The Hours: Women, Sexuality, and Death Essay

- The Hours: Women, Sexuality, and Death The Hours is a movie that won the most awards in 2002.The movie is mainly about relationships, love, and death. This movie follows a single day in the lives of three women in different time periods between 1941 to 2001.The clothes that all three of these women wore were from different time periods. It is apparent from this movie that throughout history women were faced with trials and tribulations. Through each of their lives they battled with their own identity and the roles that they should play in society....   [tags: Gender Studies]

Powerful Essays
825 words (2.4 pages)

Essay on Death In The Hours by Michael Cunningham

- The men and women of "The Hours" view death as an escape from an ordinary lifestyle which lacks anything truly extraordinary or exhilarating. Laura Brown considers death as an alternative to the constraints of her role as a mother and a wife. Both Richard Brown and Virginia Woolf ultimately commit suicide in order to escape their illnesses and their failures to live up to society's expectations. Though Laura does not end her life, she does die symbolically to her family. Over the period of a day, Laura Brown gradually succumbs to her overwhelming desire to liberate herself from her mundane life....   [tags: Cunningham Hours]

Powerful Essays
979 words (2.8 pages)

Essay on An Abstract View of Death in Mrs.Dalloway and The Hours

- An Abstract View of Death in Mrs.Dalloway and The Hours Works Cited Missing In Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours contradictory and almost altered views of death are presented. Virginia Woolf and Michael Cunningham portray death as escape for some, but an entrapment for others. It is no longer treated as a subject to worry about or fear, which society now views it as. A line from Shakespeare's Cymbeline, "Fear no more the heat o' the sun / Nor the furious winter rages," sums up what the authors of Mrs....   [tags: Virginia Woolf Michael Cunningham]

Powerful Essays
1675 words (4.8 pages)

Essay on Family in Samuel Richardson's Clarissa

- Family in Samuel Richardson's Clarissa Family plays an extremely important role in Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa. Biological families drive the action and the plot of Clarissa. Clarissa’s family tries to force her into marriage with Solmes and therefore drives her into the waiting arms of Lovelace. Throughout Clarissa, biological families fail. James Harlowe Senior, weak from the gout, passes his paternal authority on to his son, creating a fictional version of kinship. Lovelace’s family does not control him....   [tags: Kinship Samuel Richardson Clarissa Essays]

Powerful Essays
1864 words (5.3 pages)

Essay on Integration of Life and Death in Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours

- Integration of Life and Death in Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours show that life and death are dependent on each other. It is a person's life experiences that define their thoughts and feelings on death and death can define their life experiences. Cunningham, the author of The Hours, explains it best: We live our lives, do whatever we do and then we sleep - its as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we're very fortunate, by time itself....   [tags: Papers]

Powerful Essays
1360 words (3.9 pages)

Essay on The Survival Instinct in A Long Way Gone and Blood Brothers

- Since the beginning of time, every species has been faced with their greatest trial in life: survival. Humans as a species have become masters of defying death. Even faced with overpopulation, itself the result of successfully defying death and sure catalyst to the downfall of a population, we as a species have nevertheless learned to cope and continue to reproduce and thrive. As individuals, each human being possesses one of the greatest wills for survival in our natural world. Our societal views of the value of life and the fear of death, our intellectual dominance, and our physical adaptability allow us to cling to life under the harshest conditions....   [tags: A Long Way Gone]

Powerful Essays
1122 words (3.2 pages)

The Combray Section of Marcel Proust's Swann's Way Essay

- The Combray Section of Marcel Proust's Swann's Way        The "Combray" section of Marcel Proust's Swann's Way is an extended meditation on an idyllic past. The book begins, though, not with recollections of Combray, but with a description of the narrator's half-asleep state, a state of consciousness where he does not know where, or even who, he is. The expanded memories of his past, then, seem an attempt to establish a stable sense of self, a sense that continually eludes him. In this exploration, which constitutes the entirety of the "Combray" section, we find the narrator, a young man with literary aspirations, struggling to understand the characters of his childhood in a way t...   [tags: Swann's Way]

Powerful Essays
2603 words (7.4 pages)

Shah’s Fables in The Way of Sufi Essay

- Shah’s Fables in The Way of Sufi       When most people answer the question, "What is a fable?" they usually define it as a story with talking animals that teaches readers a lesson or moral. Although most fables do fit into this category, Idries Shah, an author of many fables, believes that there is more to a fable than just being an interesting story that teaches a lesson. In fact, Shah writes in the "Forward" of his book Reflections, "Do you imagine that fables exist only to amuse or to instruct, and are based upon fiction....   [tags: Way of Sufi Essays]

Free Essays
977 words (2.8 pages)

The Character of Clarissa Dalloway Created by Virginia Woolf Essays

- Virginia Woolf creates interesting contrast within the character of Clarissa Dalloway using stream of consciousness narration in her novel Mrs. Dalloway. Clarissa’s inner thoughts reveal a contrast between her lack of attraction to her husband due to her lesbian feelings and her fear of loosing him as a social stepping stone. These contrasts and many others can be seen throughout the novel using the literary device of stream of consciousness narration. Clarissa’s character reveals to us early in the book her lack of attraction to her husband....   [tags: essays research papers]

Powerful Essays
463 words (1.3 pages)