A heroine moves toward her inevitable end, death or marriage, along lines her body generates: the domestic novel binds her over and over to the sexual plot. For her, for sure, anatomy is destiny. One of two courses of action is possible: she will either get virtue’s earthly reward, a rich husband, or be seduced and die of it. The conscious heroine must work out a view of this absurdly simple pair of alternatives by which to transcend them. Clarissa Harlowe imagines the perfect marriage, death, transcendence that realises her self. Trapped in the constraints of the heroine’s story, she triumphs — paradoxically, ambiguously — by writing her own variation on it.
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