This review discusses things not already mentioned in my non-spoiler review. I don’t want to repeat myself, but I would recommend that you read both!
One thing that I found interesting about this book is how it kept me up in the air for the longest time. Having finished it, it’s obvious now what lessons Richardson was pushing, but it wasn’t always. I mean, it was easy to see that Clarissa was the heroine, but Lovelace was more of a gray area.
For about the first half of the book I was absolutely convinced that Clarissa’s maxed-out virtue would, in the end, make such an impact on Lovelace that he couldn’t help but reform. I didn’t know if she would marry him, even after that, but the reformation in itself would have been a victory. The lesson would be that virtue always prevails.
But then, at some point, I started to wonder. Maybe it was because Lovelace didn’t seem to be making much progress. The question became: is it possible for a woman to change the wicked ways of a man who loves her? I didn’t know what the answer would be, since everything is determined by which side the author comes down on.
Even so, I NEVER expected what actually transpired. When the turning point arrived, I was sure it must be some kind of trick. I couldn’t believe the author would allow such a thing to happen. And, in the end, that’s exactly what made it effective. If only the ending afterwards hadn’t been so long and drawn out.
I’m sure that if I’d studied this book in a classroom setting where they’d told us from the start that it was a tragedy, I would have found it incredibly tedious, but as it was, it wasn’t so bad.
As far as the characters went, I was rather disappointed in the lack of good male role models. When Colonel Morden finally (FINALLY!) arrived, I had high hopes for him to be an all around awesome guy. But then we find out that in the past he’s done some things he shouldn’t have. That was immediately disenchanting. And then he challenges Lovelace to a duel? After Clarissa EXPRESSLY told him not to time and time again? It’s obvious that neither character learned a single solitary thing from her. Belford actually comes out looking the best in my opinion, but only after he’s begun to reform.
As for the other characters, well, I didn’t think much about them either way.
As I mentioned in my non-spoilers review, it all comes down to the length for me. If it hadn’t dragged on and on and on, I definitely would have considered it a better book.