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Clinker

I found the writer’s style of a novel in the form of a series of letters between characters to be very interesting! It also was interesting that the novel is titled “The Expedition of Humphry Clinker,” but readers don’t even encounter said character until well into the novel. I found a connection between Humphry Clinker and She Stoops to Conquer in the emphasis on appearance for the characters. When we first meet Humphry, he is unkempt and sickly. Later, when Mr. Bramble gives him money to get himself new clothes, he is unrecognizable: “Indeed, the difference was very conspicuous: this was a smart fellow, with a narrow-brimmed hat, with gold cording, a cut bob, a decent blue jacket, leather breeches, and a clean linen shirt, puffed above the waist-band….and, at length, displayed the individual countenance of Humphry Clinker, who had metamorphosed himself in this manner…” (95). This was similar to the trick Kate plays on Marlow—at one moment she appears to be a completely different person than the next because of the way she dresses and presents herself. Another connection I noticed with Humphry Clinker was the emphasis of the characters on class distinction. Just as Marlow is highly concerned with Kate’s social class and reacts differently to her two roles of a barmaid and upper-class woman, Matthew is concerned with the lack of class distinction in London: “every trader in any degree of credit, every broker and attorney, maintains a couple of footmen, a coachman, and postilion” (83). What’s interesting is the contrast between Matthew and Lydia—Lydia is very excited and welcoming of her surroundings, while Matthew is cynical and stuck in the past (“the whole nation seems to be running out of their wits” (101)). I saw it as a resistance of the stubborn uncle to the changing of time and culture versus an embrace of unity and imagination from the niece. 

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One thought on “Clinker

  1. Lauren,
    You’ve blown me away with these observations! What wonderful connections between Clinker and Kate — most notably in the ways other individuals approach them.

    I wonder how you interpret Kate now that I’m reading this. What I mean is do you conceive of an actual transformation in her identity as she switches roles, or is it simply performance?
    I ask, because part of me has always read Clinker’s transformation be be literal.
    Just as Lydia’s rings conspicuously display her fashionable travels, it seems to me that other material goods manifest the ability to display status for characters in the novel, most notably Humphry Clinker who is able to “metamorphos[e] himself…by relieving from pawn part of his own clothes, with the money he had received from Mr. Bramble.” Through the acquisition of his outward attire, Clinker transforms not just his appearance, but “himself.” Earlier in the novel, Humphry declares, “I ha’n’t a shirt in the world, that I can call my own, nor a rag of clothes.” With money, Humphry has access to clothes which cover the body and permit him entrance to public interactions, effectively transforming his position in society.
    Do you think Kate effects the same change? is it different? Might it be gendered?

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