Quebec: Week Three

My second Sunday here in Quebec was spent at the Musée de l’Amérique-Francophone. I took the bus into Vieux-Québec and got off at Station D’Youville. On my way to the museum, I stopped at the McDonalds I’ve been trying to find for lunch.

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At 12:45, I took the French language tour of the Séminaire de Québec, which was the germ of what is now Laval University. The first stop was the Chapelle du Musée de l’Amérique-Francophone. Our guide pointed out details of the chapel such as that the delicate wood and pillars are covered in a metal shell convincingly painted to look like marble and gilt and the reliquary contains a piece of the True Cross. The seminary was destroyed in a fire during the nineteenth century and was restored between 1888 and 1900. It is now used by Laval’s school of architecture. We were shown the courtyard of the seminary and some of its private chapels.

When the tour was finished, I went into the Musée de l’Amérique. I explored an exhibit called “Une Colonie Retrouvée/ A Colony Found Again,” which is a multimedia presentation on a short-lived French colony in Quebec at what is now Cap-Rouge.

Jacques Cartier, the explorer who claimed Canada for the French, and the soldier and courtier Jean-François de la Rocque de Roberval were sent by Francis I to form a colony in North America during the 1540s. The colony fell apart in 1543 due to disease, bad weather, hostile Indians, and lack of supplies. Part of the reason why Francis I wanted a colony was to gain mineral wealth. Cartier and Roberval found what they thought was diamonds and gold but was later revealed to quartz and fool’s gold leading to a saying “faux comme les diamants du Canada/ fake as Canadian diamonds.”  An interesting story I learned about was that of Marguerite de la Rocque, Roberval’s unmarried niece who had an affair with a young man during the voyage over to Canada. She and her lover were punished for their immorality by being marooned on a remote island, where they had a child. Her lover and their child died of disease and she was eventually rescued by fishermen.

It had been a beautiful day when I left Laval, so I put on a cute summer outfit only to get caught in the rain on my back.

Tuesday night was the third of the excursions I had booked: a ghost tour in Vieux-Québec. We left Laval at eight o’clock at night and we met the tour guide at Le Marrin which was a jail back in colonial times.

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Our guide was Jean Rattier, a servant who was convicted of killing a young woman in the Seventeenth Century and sentenced to hang. Luckily for him, Rattier was sentenced to hang around the time that the executioner of Quebec died and he escaped execution by taking the job for himself.

He lead us through Vieux-Québec and we ran into a number of Quebec’s other ghostly residents including Docteur l’Indienne, who is believed to have been Canada’s first serial killers; Jean Hautecoeur, a man who was hung for murder by none other than Jean Rattier; Marie Maréchal, a haunted and hysterical woman out for revenge for the slaughter of her family; La Carriveau, who was put to death for killing her second husband and her dead body was displayed in an iron cage; and Marie Rivière, a fille du roi (a young woman who was sent to the colonies to marry a settler) and the wife of Jean Rattier, who put her in the stocks for theft.

Along the way, we were told facts about colonial Quebec’s judicial system such as that you got your lower lip branded for being caught blaspheming six times and that you could be banished (if you were a man) or sent to a convent (if you were a woman) for adultery. We made it back to Laval around midnight.  

After class on Wednesday, I joined a group heading Chateau St. Louis and we took the bus into Vieux-Québec. I started talking to these two girls named Ann and Anastasia during the trip after they noticed the Hamilton pins on my backpack.

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Chateau St. Louis was the home of the colonial governors of Quebec. Its ruins are in a museum underneath Chateau Frontenac. We walked through rooms filled with old stone walls and cases filled with cracked dishes and rusted flatware.

In what was once the kitchen, there was a wide oven with a spit roast. The guide explained that in the early nineteenth century, there would have been a wheel powered by a small dog which turned the spit for roasting meat.

One of the items we were shown was a glass bottle for smelling salts and the guide gave us the old story about how women used to wear such tight corsets that they fainted all the time. I’ve worn corsets before; I was out of breath but it was because I am out of shape.

On the way back to catch the bus, Ann, Anastasia, and I stopped at a Chocolat Favoris to get ice cream. Ann and I chatted on the bus about the Hamilton and Percy Jackson and the Olympians/ Heroes of Olympus fandoms. We got back to Laval and exchanged Facebook pages.

I had wanted to return to the Musée des Beaux-Arts on Thursday but the trip was full before I could I could sign up for it. So I decided to sign up for the trip to the Plains of Abraham, which I had planned to do on Friday.

The Plains of Abraham were the sight of the battle a battle during the Seven Years War which handed over control of Canada from the French to the British. On the first floor of the museum are a series of displays teaching about life in Quebec during the battles such as camp tent with information on the women who did the cooking and laundry in the army camps, as well as providing other services.

The second floor has reproductions of uniforms from the different regiments who fought in the battle and dioramas which I took pictures of to share with my dad.

He is a military history buff and my childhood family vacations were spent at places like this. I plan on taking my parents to the Plains of Abraham when they come to visit. There were copies of some of the uniform coats which people could put on and pose for pictures in. For some reason, the coats were weighed down with 30kg worth of weights. The only reason I could think of why they did this is so people wouldn’t steal them.

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After the Plains of Abraham, we went to see a Martello tower, one of the British Army fortifications built in Quebec during the 19th Century.

Inside, we were told about what life was like for a soldier living in the fort, learned to drill, and played a word jumble game involving items found around the fort such as fusil “musket” and biscuit. The Martello tower is a place that I am considering taking my parents.

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Quebec: Week Two

On Sunday, I took the bus to the Musée Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Québec. I had heard about an exhibit on the works of Berthe Morisot, one of only a few female painters in the Impressionist school. She was the sister-in-law of Édouard Manet, being married to his brother, Eugène. Strange for her time, she kept her maiden name after their marriage and continued with her artistic career. Her art has been described as decidedly feminine: depicting women and domestic life.

The first painting in the exhibit was called Le Berceau (the cradle), one of Morisot’s best-known works, which shows her sister Edma looking over the cradle of her daughter, Blanche.

Edma and her children were common subjects in Morisot’s art.

Another of Morisot’s frequent models was her and Eugène Manet’s daughter, Julie.

Prior to looking in the exhibit, I got something to eat in one of the museum’s cafe. The cafe did not have a good selection; I had a pita wrap with salami, ham, and cheese, which was only okay.

The next place I went was Cathédral-Basilica-de-Notre-Dame. It took me a while to there. First, because I had a hard time finding the stop where I needed to catch the bus. Once I got off the bus, I went on yet another magical-mystery-tour of Quebec trying to find the cathedral. I went to Notre Dame de Quebec last Wednesday and wanted to see the crypts, which were closed at the time. Luckily, this time I was able to see the crypts. My tour began with seeing the remains of St. François de Laval, the first bishop of Laval.

He founded a seminary which became Laval and was canonized by Pope Francis. The crypt itself contains the remains of the of the previous bishops of Quebec and the priests who served at Notre Dame de Quebec.

To find a place with wifi where I could find out how I could get back to Laval, I stopped in the Cafe de Boude, which has wifi, to have dinner. I had the fish and chips which were delicious. After dinner, I took the bus back to Laval.

Tuesday was the day that I was finally able to see the Musée du Fort. I took the bus to Chateau Frontenac, which I found out is across the street from the Musée du Fort, and searched around for a place where I could get wifi so I could use the Google Maps app on my phone to get around. My original plan was to find a McDonalds but since I could not connect to a wifi, I ended up going to the restaurant next door to the museum, which, in hindsight, was a better decision.

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The restaurant is called Chicshack and it was one of the places that were recommended to me as one of the best places to get poutine: a Quebéçois dish made from fried potatoes, gravy, and cheese curds. Their poutine is indeed delicious.

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The Musée du Fort consists of a diorama of the Quebec areas as it would have looked in the mid-1700s. There is a film about the history of Quebec projected over the diorama and parts of it light up as the story is told. Quebec was settled by the French in the early 1600s and over the next 150s, the French and British fought for control of it. The British eventually won the territory after they defeated the French during the Seven Years War. A couple of decades later, George Washington sent continental forces to attack the British in Quebec, led by Benedict Arnold and General Montgomery, whose death was immortalized in a line from the musical Hamilton: “I was a captain under General Montgomery, till he got shot in the neck in Quebec.”  I watched the show two times: first in English, then in French.

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The Musée du Fort is one of the places I want to take my parents to when they come to get me next month.

Four years ago, when I was in Paris, I saw posters for American movies dubbed in French and since then, I’ve been curious about what it would be like to see a movie in another movie. So on Saturday, I went to see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again at Cinema Cartier.

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I saw the movie twice: first in French, then in English. The French screening began at 2:50 pm, so I left Laval at two o’clock. The English screening began directly afterwards at five o’clock. I could follow the plot well enough well enough during the French screening but I caught some detail that I had previously missed during the English screening.

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Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again takes place five years after the original Mamma Mia movie. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) deals with running her late mother, Donna’s, hotel on the idyllic Greek island of Calacari, her long-distance relationship with her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper), and the news that she herself is to become a mother. Years earlier in 1979, free-spirited  Donna (Lily James) travels to Greece and has relationships with three different men: awkward and adorable Harry (Colin Firth/ Hugh Skinner), dashing and adventurous Bill (Stellan Skarsgard/ Josh Dylan), and sensitive and restless Sam (Pierce Brosnan/ Jeremy Irvine), who are all possibly Sophie’s father.

The transitions between the two stories are well done, though the Mamma Mia timeline does not make much sense. Sophie was conceived during the summer of 1979 and was probably born in 1980. She is twenty-five, so the film should take place in 2005 though it appears to take place in the present day.

I wanted to live in this movie: to go to a stunning Greek island, be romanced by three hot men, and not have a care in the world. The gorgeous scenery is the best part of the movie and feed my desire to visit Greece. My summer wardrobe is going to be influenced by the clothes worn by Lily James as Donna. The musical numbers were a lot of fun and full of color and energy. My favorites were “I Have a Dream” when Donna explores the rundown farmhouse where she will make a home for herself, and “The Name of the Game” when she is in the afterglow of her new affair with Sam. Two of them were tearjerkers: “I’ve Been Waiting for You,” which cuts between Sophie singing a tribute to her mother and Donna giving birth to Sophie, and “My Love, My Life” which cuts between the baptism of Sophie’s son and her own baptism and features a cameo from Meryl Streep who played Donna in the first movie.

I enjoyed Mamma Mia as a cheesy fun but I think Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is the better of the two because I liked the story more. It’s an upbeat, escapist summer movie and I would recommend it.

Quebec: Week One

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My mom, her friend Dawn, and I left Massachusetts around five o’clock Saturday evening. We arrived in Quebec around one or two o’clock Sunday morning and checked into the Travelodge. The decor of the lobby in the Quebec Travelodge has a very funky decor: bright colors, water running behind glass walls and neon lighting. There’s a restaurant called Cafe Jules Verne which was where we had breakfast before heading over to the University of Laval.

After checking into my dorm room at Laval and unpacked my things, we went and explored the campus. Our first stop was the Pavillion Desjardins, where there is a cafeteria and a convenience store where you can buy bus tickets. Next, we looked for the Pavillion Charles de Koninck, where I have classes. At Pavillion Charles de Koninck, we met a boy named Jordan, who is from Newfoundland. Jordan joined us for lunch at the cafeteria in Desjardins, then to a nearby supermarket called Supermarché Métro, where we bought groceries for the week.

Mom offered to bring Jordan along with us when we went into Old Town Quebec.  We walked down to the lower part of the city via a series of staircases. Quebec is more like a European city than anything we usually see in North America with its narrow, winding, cobblestone streets. One of the streets is canopied by a number of brightly colored umbrellas.

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Mom wanted to find a church called Notre Dame des Victoires which translates to “Our Lady of Victories”: the name of the parish church in her hometown of Sayreville, New Jersey. Unfortunately, the church was closed so we could not go inside. On our way back up, we stopped for drinks at the Pub des Borgias; I had a rum and coke.

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The day ended with window shopping at the stores near Chateau Frontenac Hotel. Across from the hotel is a street filled with booths for portrait artists. I’ve always wanted to have my portrait done, so I decided to come back when I had more time.

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I had classes until 11:30 on Monday morning. Then at one o’clock, I went on a tour of the campus and saw its very impressive athletic complex. At 3:30pm, there was an orientation meeting, then I was free.

I took the bus into Old Town Quebec, intending to return to Chateau Frontenac and have my portrait drawn. Following the directions given by my Google Maps app, I got off the bus at Parliament Hill and looked around for the Gare Fluviale stop, where I was supposed to get on another bus which would take me the rest of the way to Chateau Frontenac. But I could not find the Gare Fluviale, so I wound up on a magical mystery tour through Quebec as I looked for my destination. The Summer Festival was going on this week, so there were a lot of people downtown Monday evening. Some big name groups such as The Foo Fighters, The Chainsmokers, Machine Gun Kelly, Beck, Lorde, Cyndi Lauper, and the Dave Mathews Band were on the lineup.

I met up with Dawn and my mom in front of a restaurant called Bistro 1640. Today was the day I finally had my portrait done. I sat for one of the street artists, who captured my likeness in sepia colored pastels. The drawing was well done but, unfortunately, it looked like me.

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The three of us had dinner at Bistro 1640. The bread was served with pâté; I had never had pâté but it was delicious. For my main course, I had a chicken caesar salad which was served in a very unique way: on a piece of slate with whole heads of lettuce and chicken thighs. Dessert consisted of maple sugar creme brulée which was fantastic. Monday was Dawn and my mom’s last night in Quebec, so I said goodbye to them when the dropped me off at Laval.

My classes were over at noon on Tuesday and then I had to go to the registrar’s office to get my student I.D. I spent the rest of the day at the Musée de la Civilization. My trip there went fairly smoothly until the bus drove past the stop where I was supposed to get off. After the bus dropped me off, I used my phone to find another way to get where I wanted to go. I had originally intended to go to the Musée du Fort but when I looked it up, I found that it was closed, so I decided to go to the Musée de la Civilization, using my phone to help me find the way.

Musée de la Civilization has exhibits which chronicle the history of Quebec. This region is fascinating. Both European and North America, Anglophone and Francophone, and completely unique.

I saw artifacts belonging to the native peoples who lived here thousands of years before European settlers arrived, the belongings those settlers brought with them and imported from Europe when things became more civilized, and items which exemplify Quebec culture, ranging from the 17th century to the present. The territory of what is now Canada was first explored by Samuel de Champlain, who founded the city of Quebec, and immigrants from France settled the area. It was ruled by France until the Seven Years War when the British took it over. The province of Quebec has always stood out among the British Empire, being Francophone as opposed to Anglophone and Catholic as opposed to Protestant. The Catholic Church played a big role in the founding of Quebec and in the formation of its culture and the collection of the Musée de la Civilization has plenty of Catholic iconography and paraphernalia.

Laval University, where I am studying, is named after Monseigneur François de Laval who was the first bishop of Quebec and was made a saint.

I have always been obsessed with porcelain and period clothing and the museum’s collection is lousy with them.

The battery on my phone was running low at the time, so I missed many opportunities to take pictures of the pieces I liked. There is so much that trying to take it all in was a bit overwhelming.

There was a special exhibit called “Ici Londres” or “London’s Calling.” I downloaded an audio guide on my phone which was narrated by a personification of the city of London, who for some reason had a Quebecois accent.  Each section of the exhibit is meant to represent a different area of London which is also a fascinating place with a vibrant and fascinating art scene: a blend of tradition and the avant-garde, of capitalism and anarchy. “Ici Londres” is a celebration of the art, music, and fashion which put London on the map: from 1960s mods, the Beatles, and Mary Quant to 1970s punks, the Sex Pistols, and Vivienne Westwood, to 1980s new romantics and new wavers, David Bowie, and Body Map. I’ve always been an Anglophile and obsessed with music, fashion, and art, so I enjoyed this exhibit. The section of London I was most excited to see was Abbey Road which was dedicated to the Beatles, who made Abbey Road Studios famous.

I left the museum around 4:30 pm and took a taxi back to Laval and had an early night.

After our classes on Wednesday, we had a mandatory excursion to Vieux-Québec. We left campus at 1:30pm. Our first stop was at the Assemblé Nationale de Québec and the Fontaine de Tourny across the street from it.

We then walk through the old city fortifications and towards Chateau Frontenac.

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Behind Chateau Frontenac is a boardwalk which overlooks the St. Lawrence River.

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From there, we walked down the Escalier Frontenac to Le Petit Champlain, the lower part of the city, where Mom, Dawn, Jordan and I went on Sunday.

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We walked through Place Royale, where Notre Dame des Victoires is, and back up Rue de la Montagne, a hike which nearly killed me.

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Back on top, we looked inside the Cathedral-Basilica de Québec. The cathedral has a crypt, which contains the remains of St. François de Laval, but it was closed, so we were only able to look at the main part of the cathedral.

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Jasmine and her family arrived in Quebec on Wednesday and I had been excited to see her. She and I had planned to go out to dinner and then for a swim at her hotel. Later on, she texted me saying that we could not go for a swim because her parents did not want to go out again after swimming. When I got back from my tour of Vieux-Québec, Jasmine sent me another text to tell me that they were too tired from their trip to go out again. So I ordered a pizza and settled down to finish watching season two of Thirteen Reasons Why.

On Thursday, Jasmine and her parents picked me up around noon. I wanted to show her the Musée de la Civilization, so we went there. My reason for returning was to take pictures of items in the collection which I had neglected to photograph on Tuesday. One exhibit tells the history of Quebec in chronological order: I photographed some dresses and hats ranging from the Edwardian era to the 1950s.

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The other exhibit has items muddled together without any apparent rhyme and reason. It has everything from Victorian wedding dresses and 1940s salon chairs to stuffed buffalos and polar bear cubs.

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One thing I was surprised to see was a computer like those we had in my elementary school computer lab.

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I feel much too young to see something from my childhood in a museum. I was able to take photographs of The Belle Inconnue death mask and of the hippy, mod, and new romantic clothing I liked in “Ici Londres.”

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We left the museum around three o’clock because I had to be back at campus for one of the excursions I had booked: a trip to Cabane de Pierre, a maple farm a couple of hours away from Quebec.

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We were shown a Cabane à Sucre, a hut where maple syrup is made.

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Then we had a meal in the main building which included ham, eggs, sausages, pancakes and shepherd’s pie, all drizzled with maple syrup.

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A band played music from the traditional Québec music to a song from the film Titanic, to staples of middle school dances like “the Cotton-Eyed Joe,” “the Hokey-Pokey” and “the Macarena.” I did a little bit of dancing but it quickly tired me out. For dessert,, we had maple candy made from maple syrup poured in shaved iced and then wrapped around a popsicle stick, which was delicious. I read about this type of candy in the Little House on the Prairie books and I had always wanted to try it.

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We arrived back at Laval University around ten-thirty.

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Saturday was my second excursion, which was to Lévis, the city across the St. Lawrence from Quebec. We took a ferry across the river and when we disembarked, I went to an Aux Petits Oignons and bought a ham and cheese sandwich, a bag of chips, and a soda for lunch.

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The first stop on our tour was a former Anglican church, which is now a theater, in Vieux-Lévis. We walked up there via and “escalier” which are becoming the bane of my existence. Our next stop was the house of Alphonse Desjardins, who founded a chain of banks here in Quebec, then we went to a well-known ice-cream parlor and candy store called Chocolat Favoris; I had the dulce de leche which was delicious.

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The second part of our trip was to Fort Lévis. We were shown the artillery magazine and our guide demonstrated how to fire a canon. I was part of the demonstration: I used the brush that cleans out the canon before it is loaded.

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Finally, we went to the Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, a waterfall outside of Lévis. We walked across a suspension bridge to the other side of the falls. The Chutes-de-la-Chaudière are beautiful and I would recommend going to see them. I would also recommend going to a Chocolat Favoris but Lévis is nothing special.

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So far, my trip to Quebec has been tons of fun.

Clarissa Book 3: Good Girl Gone Bad

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There is a misconception that good people make for uninteresting characters. To an extent this is true. No one likes the goodie two shoes who is always doing the right thing and it does not make for a good character arch. There is also a twin misconception that deeply flawed and immoral characters are more relatable and I also see how this could be true. We like to see ourselves, even our flaws, in fictional characters and for a character to be fully rounded, they need to grow and change. 

In theory, Clarissa Harlow, the heroine of Clarissa: or The History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson, would be a flat and uninteresting character. She is presented as a model of virtue who tries her hardest to stick to a moral code, even if one that’s based on ideas that seem outdated by modern standards: that women are supposed to be pure and virtuous and if they are not, then they have no value. I prefer to think of it as Clarissa having too much self-respect to let Lovelace take advantage of her. Clarissa is an example of a character whose good qualities are what get them into trouble. The virtues she is admired for (integrity and dutifulness) are what send her on her downward spiral.

Clarissa writes to her best friend Anna Howe why she believes she is in the mess she is in “Oh my dear! An obliging temper is a very dangerous temper!-by endeavouring to gratify others, it is evermore disobliging itself!”  She has spent most of her life as a dutiful and obedient daughter and sister which has convinced her unscrupulous family that she is a doormat who they can make do whatever they want. Her integrity keeps her from bowing to their wishes that she marry the odious Mr. Sommes, even though they make her life hell to try to get to break. She stubbornly refuses to bend where a weaker spirit would have broken. 

During book three of the novel, Clarissa goes from the ideal child to a warning for potentially disobedient daughters. Anna’s mother, who previously saw Clarissa as a good influence on her daughter, forbids their correspondence. Due to her refusal to marry Mr. Solmes and her elopement with Mr. Lovelace, who they hate, Clarissa’s family disowns her, leaving her completely in Lovelace’s power.

Book three of Clarissa ends with the heroine falling deeper into Lovelace’s trap. She and Lovelace decide to go to London, where he provides her with seemingly respectable lodgings which are revealed to a brothel frequented by his rakish cronies. Clarissa’s desire to keep her independence and integrity and to escape the persecution of her cruel family ironically leads to her being an unwitting prisoner in a brothel, where she will be powerless against Lovelace’s unwanted sexual advances.