Emotional Writing and Expression of the Self in Clarissa. Kendra Sheehan.

The relationship between writing and identity in Clarissa suggests that writing involves a great deal of intellectual internalization and that the self fluctuates depending on what one is internalizing or experiencing. In the beginning of the novel, Clarissa is stable with little to no worries. Her letters are perfectly written with appropriate grammar and established beginnings and endings, and her spirits seem positive. When she becomes confined to her room, though, the writing is occasionally erratic, but still, for the most part, formal and appropriate. She even remarks on how her writing reflects her physical state—reminding us of Marta Kvande’s (2013) claim that 18th century writers saw letters as a direct manifestation of the body that cannot be faked (p. 245). When Clarissa is confined yet again, this time by Lovelace, her distress becomes even more evident in her writing, particularly in her recurrent use of parenthetical remarks about what she or others say or do.

Despite her questioning of herself and despite the control others exert over her, writing has given Clarissa a voice when she has been physically removed from a space where she may speak and when others refuse to listen to her. Her words are her only source of comfort. Clarissa is able to express her emotions and thoughts by writing to Anna or even to herself and thus keep semblance of self. By writing, Clarissa can record her thoughts and experiences and thus move forward and form a self that can become stronger when her harrowing experiences are over.

In short, writing is like a form of meditation for Clarissa. It allows her to internalize and then purge what she sees as faults in herself, ridding herself of negative experiences, and allowing her to regain some sense of the confident identity she once had before Lovelace entered into her life. Clarissa is writing into being not the identity of a faultless young woman in dire circumstances, but a young woman trying to survive and correct all the wrongs she is suffering from.