Throughout this course, we have read many selections that were directly related to Puritanism. Just as well, they have often come in the form of a captivity narrative or gothic novel. In this case, “Wieland” by Charles Brockden Brown, is written in the format of a gothic novel, and similarly seems to reject Puritan ideals. It is a gothic novel in the sense that it follows the typical storyline of a young, honorable woman having her virtue threatened. It involves many supernatural events and is also thought to be ultimately resolved by a supernatural event. Most importantly, it brings about the threat of religion. Brown aims to expose the dangers of believing to strictly in Puritanism, and furthermore any religion for that matter. It’s the idea that any religion can lead to religious frenzy and that no human virtue is safe from corruption. One can witness these concepts by simply examining the _________ of characters Henry Pleyel, Clara Wieland, and Theodore Wieland also known as Wieland. Henry Pleyel intro.
Hears voices telling him that lover is dead but more importantly “hears” things that cause him to question clara’s virtue. “In vain you dwelt upon incidents of which you only could be conscious; incidents that occurred on occasions on which none beside your own family were witnesses. In vain was your discourse characterized by peculiarities inimitable of sentiment and language. My conviction was effected only by an accumulation of the same tokens. I yielded not but to evidence which took away the power to withhold my faith” (Brown 154). In this part, Henry recounts an event in where he supposedly heard Clara submit to Carwin. He argues that he knows it couldn’t of been anyone other than Clara because she spoke only of things that only she or one close to her family could know, and that her discourse was particularly her own, down to the language used. It was clearly her. No other being could know how to sound like her or know the things she did.
The fact that Henry relies solely on his senses and leaves no room for the possibility of supernatural occurrences comes back to this idea of American Enlightenment. Clara Wieland constantly antagonized by voices but cannot make sense of them. Play on her senses, does not know what to trust. “The interval was too brief to artificially measured, between the utterance of these words, and my scrutiny directed to the quarter to whence they came. Yet if a human being had been there, could he fail to have been visible? Which of my senses was the prey of a fatal illusion? The shock which the sound produced was still felt in every part of my frame. The sound therefore, could not but be a genuine commotion. But that I heard it, was not more true than that the being who uttered it was stationed at my right ear; yet my attendant was invisible”(Brown 97-98). Explanation. Tie to thesis.
Theodore Wieland is the worst case scenario. Seems the most normal and able to rationalize up until the point where he viciously murders his family and claims to be carrying out an act of god. “I thank thee, my father, for thy bounty; that thou didst not ask a less sacrifice than this; that thou placedst me in a condition to testify my submission to thy will! What have I withheld which it was thy pleasure to exact? Now may I, with dauntless and erect eye, claim my reward, since I have given thee thy treasure of my soul” (Brown 188). Explanation. Tie to thesis. Brown keeps swinging the pendulum back and forth between supernatural and human explanations for events and by the end of the novel, even when the mystery is technically cleared up, there are still several things left unknown or murky. The complete Enlightenment reliance upon reason can be misleading, and in some cases, even dangerous.
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