No one really knows how long Samuel Richardson’s epistolary novel Clarissa, first published in 1748, is. The exhaustive story of a young rich white woman’s struggle for self-determination is, however, considered the longest novel in the English language. If you’d like to follow the story, I’ve modernized, condensed, and dramatized it for you in a single blog post below! You’re welcome.
CLARISSA: Please respect me and let me live my life on my own terms. I can go to the estate my granddad left me; my bff Anna will come over; we’ll hang. I can read, blog, post on message boards, E-mail, and worship God. Everything’ll be cool.
CLARISSA’S PARENTS: No can do. We want you to marry up in the world. It’ll make us look good. Here is Solmes, your fiance.
SOLMES: Um, you don’t mind if I, like, marry you, do you? Hem hem heh.
CLARISSA: Look, Mom and Dad — I really love you. I want to be a good daughter; I want to make you happy, but…I can’t do this. I refuse to marry Solmes. Please respect me and let me live my life on my own terms.
CLARISSA’S PARENTS: You ungrateful little shit! Do as we say because we are your parents.
CLARISSA: I’m really sorry, but I can’t do that.
CLARISSA’S BROTHER AND SISTER: Omg, you are a little shit! You made everyone in the family unhappy, and it’s all your fault!
LOVELACE: Hey bby ur hot. Dick pix y/y?
CLARISSA: Well, you’re a damn sight better than that Solmes individual, ngl, but you’re also a notorious PUA and general asshole. No thank you. Please respect me and let me live my life on my own terms.
LOVELACE: Awwww yis! She wants the D! I am going to corrupt the crap out of her and humiliate her to the utmost!
BELFORD: Srsly, bro — I know we’re PUAs, and completely ruining women’s lives is, like, our thing, but you’ve gone off the deep end a little bit. Maybe just pull back a tad. Blog a bit, but don’t post it; tweak your OKCupid profile. You know, chill.
LOVELACE: Netflix and chill, Neflix and chill, that Harlowe chick and I are going to Netflix and chill…
[CLARISSA’S PARENTS increase their PRESSURE on her to marry SOLMES. Meanwhile, LOVELACE plays on the GENDERED EXPECTATION that women should always be nice and generous and accommodating. By means of HARASSING GUILT TRIPS, he manipulates CLARISSA into writing to him, despite her better judgment. He then KIDNAPS her and KEEPS HER LOCKED UP.]
CLARISSA: Mom, Dad, anyone — a little help here? I’ve been abducted by a seriously unhinged person, and I’m afraid for my life.
CLARISSA’S PARENTS: Hah! Liar! You ran off with him just to spite us. You hate us, don’t you? You’re the sluttiest slut that ever slutted, so just sit there and rot in your own slutty sluttishness.
CLARISSA’S BROTHER AND SISTER: Yeah! Slut!
CLARISSA: Anna, I need some help from the outside world with my escape plans.
ANNA: You ran away with him 4srs yo?!
CLARISSA: He kidnapped me!
ANNA: Your best bet is to get married and do damage control.
CLARISSA: No way! He’s vile, and he hates me, and the feeling’s mutual. Besides, I have standards.
ANNA: Mmmm. Point. Let’s get you out of there.
[With ANNA’S help, CLARISSA tries to ESCAPE several times. LOVELACE always CATCHES her.]
LOVELACE: Marry me.
CLARISSA: No. Go away.
LOVELACE: You know you want to…
CLARISSA: Actually, I’m pretty clear on what I want, and it doesn’t involve either marriage or you. In fact, it involves you fucking off and leaving me alone.
LOVELACE: But that’s not what I want. 🙁
CLARISSA: I’m not interested in what you want.
LOVELACE: But I’m a rich straight cis white dude. Everyone’s interested in what I want!
BELFORD: She’s not. Just let it go.
LOVELACE: No! She threatened my rich straight white cis masculinity, and she must pay. I know — I’m going to rape my way to her heart!
BELFORD: What? No! Leave her alone!
LOVELACE: Roofies — that’s the ticket. Knock her out an’ knock her up. She’ll be pissed for a bit, but she’ll have to marry me if she wants to salvage any semblance of respectability. We’ll tie the knot, and I’ll be the bestest spouse ever, and she’ll forgive me, and we’ll live happily ever after.
BELFORD: That’s not how these things work. Why are we even friends?
[LOVELACE drugs CLARISSA and RAPES her, and it is the BEGINNING OF THE END. She ESCAPES twice, but he REKIDNAPS her, importuning her to marry him. HIS FAMILY and HER FRIEND ANNA join the MANIPULATION CAMPAIGN. She remains ADAMANT, but the CONSTANT BULLSHIT to which she has been subjected from ALL QUARTERS takes its toll.]
CLARISSA: Okay. Fine. Apparently I can repeat “Please respect me and let me live on my own terms” till I’m blue in the face, but all I’ll receive is emotional, physical, and sexual abuse from people who can’t handle my modest wishes for self-determination. You know what? I’ve had enough of this shit. If I can’t live on my own terms, I can at least die on my own terms and go to Heaven, which is much less stressful, to be with God, who, I’ve heard, is slightly nicer company.
[CLARISSA does not commit suicide, but she does DECLINE in strength and health. She WORKS HARD to MEND FENCES with her FAMILY and to FORGIVE Lovelace. Calm, lucid, and mentally exhausted, she dies ON HER OWN TERMS.]
EVERYONE: Whoops. We probably should’a’ respected her and let her live on her own terms.
CLARISSA [via posthumously scheduled BLOG POSTS]: Gee, ya think?! But, since I’m, you know, dead, you could always try treating each other with respect and kindness.
EVERYONE: Oh. Um. Yeah. maybe we should.
CLARISSA [via posthumously scheduled BLOG POSTS]: Confidential to Lovelace: You, sir, are a shithead, and I forgive you for it, since you’re obviously a very miserable shithead. Hopefully someday you’ll see what a miserable shithead you are.
LOVELACE: Waaaaaaaah, she said no to me and then died. How could she do that to me when I loved her so much?
BELFORD: I’m going to take a wild guess here and say it probably had something to do with you being such a miserable self-pitying shithead with your head so far up your own ass that you can see your small intestine!
LOVELACE: Waaaaaaaah waaaaaaah waaaaaaaah…
MORDEN: Hey you — whiny pants: you, me, outside, in the back, now. You’re going down for messing up my cousin Clarissa like that.
[They FIGHT. Morden receives MINOR WOUNDS. Lovelace is GRIEVOUSLY INJURED.]
LOVELACE: Wow. I am a miserable shithead. [Dies.]
ME: Finally! He shut up!
READERS IN 1748: Awwww, they would have made such a cute couple! 🙁
ME: What part of “Please respect me and let me live my life on my own terms” do you not understand?!