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...
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...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.
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