Clara: The Unreliable Narrator

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a narrator is: “one who tells a story. In a work of fiction the narrator determines the story’s point of view.” If the narrator is the person that determines the story’s point of view, then what happens when the narrator is unreliable? Ariell Cacciola explains the following: “Untrustworthy narrators twist and turn throughout literature. There are myriad reasons for their lack of reliability. Some are inherently withholding, while others carry on with their lives as we follow them blindly on their wobbly journeys. And it is not necessarily the strict narration that can be ultimately untrustworthy but the narrative structure itself. The stories can be opaque and out of order, with reveals being delayed.” (Cacciola 8)Wieland and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist by Charles Brocken Brown is narrated by Clara Wieland, a girl that both witnesses and experiences traumatic experiences throughout the work. The reader depends on her understanding and perception of these experiences to comprehend what is happening to the characters in the novel, but Clara demonstrates unreliability in her narration numerous times. She shows unnatural changing in emotions, sexual attraction to disgusting characters, distress over the events, and she openly admits that the details she shares may be faulty. Clara Wieland is clearly an unreliable narrator.

One of the first moments that Clara demonstrates faulty narration is on page 22 when she explains the death of her mother. She says: “The shock which this disastrous occurrence occasioned to my mother, was the foundation of a disease which carried her, in a few months, to the grave. My brother and myself were children at this time, and were now reduced to the condition of orphans. The property which our parents left was by no means inconsiderable.” (Brown 22) Clara’s nonchalant way of speaking about the death of her loved one is rather shocking and unsettling. After telling the reader that she was but a child when her mother died, left as an orphan, she explained that the property left to her was of good worth. Rather than focusing on the pain of losing her mother, Clara focuses on the materialistic gain of the deaths of her parents. She provides details and fact rather than human emotion. The reason for this could be explained by P. Aries: “The cause of [death and grief denial] is at once apparent: the need for happiness- the moral duty and the social obligation to contribute to the collective happiness by avoiding any cause for sadness or boredom, by appearing to be always happy, even if in the depths of despair. By showing the least sign of sadness, one sins against happiness, threatens it, and society then resists losing its raison d’etre.” (Aries 94) Aries explains that to show sadness is to sin against happiness: to mourn is to limit progression. In this situation, Clara’s progression is the fact that she now owns property which is very uncommon for a girl during her time. This idea of the need for constant progression in America is supported by K. J. Gergen in The Social Constructionist Movement in Modern Psychology: “These cultural messages about grief originated because of several interlocking discursive movements in the last 150 years. The first contextual factor had to do with the shift toward a modernist society in which the emphasis is on productivity, efficiency, science, logic, and most importantly individualism”. Clara’s demonstrated need for progression also demonstrates a lack of ability to focus on the emotional side of issues rather than always maintaining efficiency. The absence of emotion concerning the death of her mother and father illuminates the fact that she has not learned the tools to cope with the events in her life, therefore there is a sense of instability in her character. Clara further exhibits this instability on page 98 after she hears a strange voice: “I cannot describe the state of my thoughts at that moment. Surprise had mastered my faculties. My frame shook, and the vital current was congealed. I was conscious only to the vehemence of my sensations. This condition could not be lasting. Like a tide, which suddenly mounts to an overwhelming height, and then gradually subsides, my confusion slowly gave place to order, and my tumults to a calm.” (Brown 98) Clara’s emotions escalate and deescalate quickly and without logical reason: it appears as though she is not in control of her emotional state. The unnatural lack of emotion spent on the death of her mother is contrasted by this passage about a sudden surge of emotional stability. The issue with this reality is that it shows the reader that the events that she shares are told by emotion, not logic. The only perspective of the story that the readers are privy to is from the perspective of an illogical narrator.

Clara’s sexual attraction to Carwin is another reason for her unreliability as narrator. This is her reaction to seeing him for the first time: “I had snatched a view of the stranger’s countenance. The impression that it made was vivid and delible. His cheeks were pallid and lank, his eyes sunken, his forehead overshadowed by coarse straggling hairs, his teeth large and irregular” (60). She then finishes her description by saying: “Every feature was wide of beauty, and the outline of his face reminded you of an inverted cone.” (61) By this description alone is it clear that Carwin is in no way attractive nor appealing. The description creates a sense of repulsion and disgust towards Carwin, and it also creates a sense of distrust of his character. However, Clara proves her unreliability as narrator when she allows her own personal feelings to alter the readers’ view of Carwin. She allows her repressed sexual desire to determine how Carwin will be portrayed. She says: “And yet his forehead, so far as shaggy locks would allow it to be seen, his eyes lustrously black, and possessing, in the midst of haggardness, a radiance inexpressibly serene and potent, and something in the rest of his features, which it would be vain to describe, but which served to betoken a mind of the highest order, were essential ingredients in the portrait. This, in the effects which immediately flowed from it, I count among the most extraordinary incidences of my life.” (61) Despite considering his face as being comparable to an inverted cone, Clara now feels a sense of attachment and attraction to Carwin. How can the readers trust a narrator that changes her mind about a character based solely on sexual attraction? Attraction is fleeting and not based on fact, therefore the perception of a character cannot be consistent with fact. By allowing her emotions and sense of attraction to characters mold her description of them, Clara is demonstrating that her view of the happenings around her are inconsistent and unreliable. Clara is an unreliable narrator because she is no longer strictly an observer: she is now focused on her own phantoms. She explains this on page 95: “Thus was I distressed by opposite conjectures: thus was I tormented by phantoms of my own creation. It was not always thus. I can ascertain the date when my mind became the victim of this imbecility; perhaps it was coeval with the inroad of a fatal passion; a passion that will never rank me in the number of its eulogists; it was alone sufficient to the extermination of my peace” (95). Clara can no longer provide a thorough explanation of what goes on around her because she now struggles with her own personal trials. On page 267 she explains a lack of interest in her life: “Surely I had reason to be weary of existence, to be impatient of every tie which held me from the grave. I experienced this impatience in its fullest extent. I was not only enamoured of death, but conceived, from the condition of my frame, that to shun it was impossible” (267). Her focus is not on the activities around her, but rather the issues she faces in her head. These issues can also affect her view of the events that are happening because she views them with a bias. This idea is proved when she speaks about her changing beliefs on page 104: “I used to suppose that certain evils could never befall a being in possession of a sound mind; that true virtue supplies us with energy which vice can never resist; that it was always in our power to obstruct, by his own death, the designs of an enemy who aim at less than our life. How was it that a sentiment like despair had now invaded me, and that I trusted to the protection of chance, or to the pity of my persecutor?” The events that are happening in Clara’s life are changing her views and beliefs: this demonstrates that she is not narrating the story with an unbiased mind. The novel is limited to her personal beliefs and understanding. Clara’s understanding of life has limitations: her life experience, her interests, and her ability to comprehend events. In her description of Carwin she showed her lacking ability to understand situations beyond her comprehension limitations: her perception of him was based solely on her attraction to him, and not on the facts that were obvious to those around her. This alone creates unreliability, but the added reality that she is affected by the mystery to the point that she changes her beliefs means that there is no consistency for the readers to follow.

Clara herself admits that her narrative will be faulty. On page 167 she explains the following: “My narrative may be invaded by inaccuracy and confusion; but if I live no longer, I will, at least, live to complete it. What but ambiguities, abruptnesses, and dark transitions, can be expected from the historian who is, at the same time, the sufferer of these disasters?” (167) First, Clara admits that she may share inaccurate details that were affected by confusion: this begs the question of how much will be inaccurate? To what extent is it even believable? Then, Clara supports the previous argument made by explaining that her explanation of events are completely biased because she was a sufferer in these events. All of the facts and details are from her memory: some facts are too painful to share, and some are completely subjective based solely on her understanding and feelings about what happened. There are some facts that she was not even privy to: for example, in a conversation with Wieland she said the following: “After a silence and a conflict which I could not interpret, he lifted his eyes to heaven” (174). Clara can only share her thoughts and the words of others: she cannot share the thoughts of those around her. The words of the other characters that she shares are still filtered by her understanding or her interpretation of what they are saying. Another example of this comes from when Wieland was explaining one of his supernatural experiences: “I opened my eyes and found all about my luminous and glowing. It was the element of heaven that flowed around. Nothing but a fiery stream was at first visible; but, anon, a shrill voice from behind called upon me to attend. I turned: it is forbidden to describe what I saw” (190). Clara is only privy to certain details of the story, but not to the ones most important. How can she be a reliable narrator if she only has certain parts of the story but not others?

Finally, she admits that her human nature causes her to not be a reliable narrator: “Such is man. Time will obliterate the deepest impressions.” (267) This entire story is written from her memory: every detail and circumstance comes from her remembrance, and can only be as accurate as her memory is accurate. She has admitted that her details may be inaccurate and that they are based on her perception and memory: Clara is not a reliable narrator.

Clara demonstrates several times throughout this work that she is an unreliable narrator. Her narrative is dictated by her ever changing emotions which forces inconsistency into her explanations of the story. Her attraction to Carwin forces the reader to view this gaunt, dark, and sickly man as appealing and attractive. She proves multiple times that she is not an unbiased observer, but that she is overcome with the phantoms in her own head. Lastly, Clara admits herself as having an inaccurate and confused narrative. The facts all demonstrate that Clara Wieland is an unreliable narrator.

Works Cited

Aries, P. (1974). Western attitudes towards death: From the middle ages to the present. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins Brown, Charles Brockden. Wieland and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist. New York: Penguin, 1991. Print. Cacciola, Ariell. “Untrustworthy Narrators.” World Literature Today, vol. 90, no. 1, 2016, p. 8 Gergen, K. J. (1992). The social constructionist movement in modern psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association “Narrator.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed 2016-11-19.

Representing Early America in “Wieland”

In the gothic novel Wieland [1], Charles Brockden Brown confronts the anxieties of the early United States Republic regarding the sense of the threat posed by “wandering anarchists, dangerous foreigners and murderous savages.” As a work of the transnational imaginary, Wieland centers on the impact of the foreign ‘other’ on a family which can be seen to represent the wider context of colonial America. The novel was written in 1798, at which time the American Republic was still young and its national identity was in a fragile and incomplete state of progress. The lack of unity bought by Carwin and the outsiders he stands for presented a sense of jeopardy in the nation’s search for this identity.

Francis Carwin epitomizes the type of character at the center of these anxieties, as he appears to be an embodiment of all the aspects of an outsider which caused them to be seen as a threat to the unity and stability of the American Republic. He was born British, assimilated himself into Spanish culture, and at the time of the novel’s events attempts to insert himself into a colonial Philadelphian family. He appears as an ‘alien’ among the familiar harmony of the family that embodies the early American Republican focus on unity and insularity. It is tempting to argue that Brockden Brown confronts the transnational sense of anxiety over the dangers of the other in such a way as to justify it, and show it to be felt with a sufficient degree of legitimacy. Certainly, Carwin can be seen as the root cause of the family’s downfall, with his deceitful uses of biloquism planting the seeds of insanity in Theodore Wieland’s mind. Francesca Orestano certainly appears to support the notion that Carwin is the source of the fractures in the family’s dynamic as she argues that “The chimera, at once agent and cypher of the fatal change in Wieland’s orderly microcosm, is a transatlantic refugee named Carwin, whose ventriloquism allows him to shift from one identity into another” [2]. With this singular statement, Orestano touches on several crucial points with regards to the anxieties of the Early American Republic as portrayed within Brockden Brown’s work of the transnational imaginary. The metaphorical comparison of Carwin to a “chimera,” a fire breathing monster from Greek mythology, presents him as kind of symbol of destruction as he uses his vocal talents to set everything around him ‘ablaze’ with confusion and madness.

However, on a deeper level, the chimera becomes an even more appropriate metaphor for Carwin, as it is by nature composed of the parts of several different animals all joined together to form one body. In light of this, Orestano can be seen to be referencing Carwin’s mixture of cultures as a man who is born British, before abandoning this culture to take on a Spanish identity, and then trying to insert himself into the American culture. She appears to imply that such a hybrid of national identities is, at least within the context of Brockden Brown’s novel, monstrous. It is his ability to shift between identities which symbolizes the dangers of cultural diversity for a newly formed nation. From this view, it is perhaps only through unity that a new nation can survive and prosper, as the arrival of one who brings diversity throws the status quo into disarray. Orestano also argues in favor of Carwin being the navigator of the developments which take the family from a position of stability to a position of chaos. This stands in support of the notion that the sense of paranoia shaping the late eighteenth century transnational imagination is more founded than unfounded, as Carwin’s appearance and its effects on the Wieland’s and the Pleyel’s can be seen to confirm it. The description of Wieland’s family unit as a “microcosm” is interesting, as the ordered and insular existence formed between the two American couples can indeed be seen to represent the wider context of the thirteen colonies and their struggle for a sense of unity and nationality in the face of oppressive British colonialism and the external threats of conflict in the wake of the French and Indian wars. Clara and Wieland themselves make allusions to this sense of their family as a microcosm of the United States Republic as they discuss whether “the picture of a single family [could offer] a model from which to sketch the condition of a nation” (29).

However, while Carwin may initially appear to be presented as a purely antagonistic figure, who both feeds and confirms the repulsions felt towards him by the Wielands and the Pleyels, this is not necessarily the case. The paranoia which shapes Brockden Brown’s work of transnational imagination is indeed shown to be free-floating as opposed to being grounded in anything specific or legitimate. This is particularly evident as Clara’s anxieties over his sudden appearance begin before he has been tied to any of the misfortune which befalls her family unit. After their brief initial meeting, she obsesses over him to the point of drawing a portrait of his face and recounting the way in which he causes her to become “absorbed in thoughts ominous and dreary” (49). Indeed, Carwin evokes anguished thoughts in Clara about the inevitability of death and ambiguous feelings of dread, yet she offers up little in the way of solid reasoning behind these feelings. Clara appears to obsess over Carwin to such a degree that her once rational demeanor crumbles away, leading us to question her reliability as a narrator, and subsequently question whether or not Carwin’s part in the tragedy is overplayed or even fabricated entirely. Clara herself questions whether Carwin is in actual fact a “phantom of [her] own creation” (69), which becomes more likely given the fact that she is inherently predisposed to the same madness that her brother ultimately succumbs to. She reaffirms her uncertainty over her accusations of Carwin as she admits that “whether Wieland was a maniac, a faithful servant of his God, the victim of hellish illusions, or the dupe of human imposture, was by no means certain” (142). Indeed, even with her constant convictions that Carwin is a bringer of destruction and tragedy for her family, Clara admits that he may have only played a small part in her brother’s descent into madness, if any part at all. Emory Elliott highlights the idea of these anxieties over Carwin’s presence being without justification as he argues that “Given the centrality of the threat that Carwin represents in the novel and the complete lack of satisfying answers……Brown’s readers are correct to wonder whether the book is an exercise in social paranoia” [3]. Certainly, Clara’s narration appears to consistently define Carwin as an antagonist, introducing him as “the author” (144) of the horrific events leading to her family’s downfall. However, from an external point of view, the true antagonist appears to none other than her brother, as he is the perpetrator of the gruesome murders of his wife and children. Although Carwin confesses that he used his vocal talents to create the illusion of voices, he never explicitly states that he convinced Wieland to murder his own family. Therefore, much of Carwin’s villainy can be seen to be a work of Clara’s free-floating paranoia as she talks from the perspective of a woman who has been conditioned to reject the external outsider, and to remain within the boundaries of an insular American existence.

Furthering the idea that the downfall of Clara’s family is only falsely attributed to the work of Carwin, the novel is actually imbued with the notion that all of the destructive qualities needed to upend the lives of the Wielands and the Pleyels are already existent within their family units. From this perspective, Carwin is at worst a catalyst for their downfall, and at best a scapegoat for actions he was not truly to blame for. The inherent insanity which spans back three generations of the Wieland family is key to this notion, as it suggests that Wieland himself was a predisposed ticking time bomb of sorts, independent of Carwin’s interference. Susan Williams Brown supports this idea as she states that “[Wieland] is a pathetic character, a victim of inherited insanity with a fate predetermined by the history of the family” [4]. This “history of the family” which Williams Brown speaks of could also refer to the history of the United States Republic, which was built up quite literally over the blood of the natives. These seeds of corruption seem to be embodied within the character of Wieland, whose madness creates an unstable foundation for the little community he and his sister have built for themselves. Brockden Brown conveys the sense that no kind of stable settlement could spring from so much suffering, whether it be the systematic slaughter of the Native Americans or the festering insanity of the Wieland family. Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock supports Williams Brown’s suggestion that it is Wieland, and not Carwin, who was the deserving subject of the family’s paranoia as he argues that “Carwin’s intervention may well have been a precipitating factor leading Wieland to act upon repressed desires, but the evidence seems to suggest that the voice of God heard by Wieland was neither God nor Carwin but rather the voice of the other within” [5]. The implication here is that Carwin does pose a threat to the family, but only in so far as his role as the one who reveals the issues which are predominantly internalized. Perhaps with regards to the anxieties of the early United States Republic it can be deduced that the source of the free-floating paranoia over ‘dangerous foreigners’ and ‘wandering anarchists’ is based around the idea that these external individuals possess the capability to expose the true instability of the fragile young nation. The anxieties may be merely an external projection of the issues within, in an attempt to paper over the cracks and make an unstable nation appear stable by scapegoating outsiders and blaming the non-present other. It is important to note that at the novel’s climax, the ultimate confrontation is one of violence between brother and sister. In other words, violence between insider and insider and oppose to insider and outsider. This can be seen to be symbolic of the unrest within the early United States Republic, as the tensions over external wars and British oppression eventually came to a head shortly after the setting of Wieland, and shortly before the time of its writing and publication. In addition to his underlying mental illness, the breakdown of Wieland’s stability and the subsequent downfall of his family can be attributed to his religious fanaticism, as he all too quickly accepts Carwin’s practical jokes of biloquism as being the voice of God. Howard I Kushner supports this notion as he insists that it is not the threat of a foreigner or a wanderer which leads Wieland to slaughter his wife and children, but rather a fatal combination of his religion and his underlying insanity as he states the way in which many have “connected Theodore Wieland’s madness and suicide to his Puritan-like obedience and to what he interpreted to be God’s will…Rejecting man’s reason and law as fallible, Wieland submitted only to the voice of God”[6].

In addition to confronting the paranoia of the early American Republic with regards to outsiders in such a way as to make it appear unfounded, Brockden Brown simultaneously delineates the dangers of this way of thinking. Robert S Levine highlights this notion as he suggests that “though Wieland could be read as a text concerned about the new nation’s vulnerability to aliens of unknown origins and motives, the Schuylkill community’s hysterical response to Carwin could also be taken to suggest that Brown is concerned about the way in which paranoia and hysteria were used to legitimate repressive anti-alien laws”[7]. Indeed, Wieland was published in 1798, a year which took place shortly after the American Revolution culminated in independence from Britain and a rise in concerns about cultural and religious differences threatening the unity of the nation. Consequently, 1798 was the same year that saw the passing of the Alien and Sedition acts which increased American residency requirements and allowed for easier deportation of ‘aliens’ who were deemed to pose a threat to the American people. Levine also notes that Brockden Brown himself, as a citizen of Philadelphia, shared in the sense of paranoia around him as he states that “as anxious and nativist as his novels might be, they are also knowing mediations on and critiques of the process of defining a nation against racial and ethnic orders” [8]. In other words, through the writing of Wieland, Brockden Brown manages to overlook his own socially programmed anxieties of the other in order to correctly recognise them as being irrational and oppressive. The repulsion which Clara feels towards Carwin seems to be felt before even meeting him, as soon as she spots him in the grounds of her home. Rather than abhorring him for any specific reason, her issue stems largely from his attempt at assimilating himself into a culture which was not his own as he took on many traits of a Spaniard, together with his ambiguous past and his general sense of foreignness. This is telling of the way in which the American people were encouraged to rally against the threat of outsiders in a bid to create a sense of national unity and identity. However, such staunch closed mindedness is exposed by Brockden Brown as being dangerously oppressive leading to the scapegoating of perceived “foreigners.” Juliet Shields highlight the way in which Brockden Brown uses Carwin as a means through which to convey this danger as she suggests that “Carwin becomes a scapegoat for the murders caused by Wieland’s own flawed reasoning and the isolated insularity of Mettigen” [9]. Indeed, her suggestion that the isolation of the family’s farm contributes to Wieland’s growing insanity is interesting, as it stands in opposition to the idea that it is the disturbance of their isolation by Carwin which triggers it. In a wider context, this implies that the discouragement of transnational migration was counterproductive to the nations stability, as its isolation and rejection of diversity was a weakening force as opposed to a strengthening one.

Wieland thus confronts the anxieties regarding the threat of outsiders present in the early American Republic by juxtaposing the classic cultural ‘other’ of Carwin against the unified American Republican microcosm of the Wieland-Pleyel family unit. The first person epistolary narrative allows Clara’s deep sense of anxiety and fascination with Carwin to be fully emphasized, but also allows the reader room to question her credibility and to draw on the gap between the dangerous antagonist she perceives him to be and the actual lack of evidence to support this, particularly when set against the murderous psychosis of her brother Wieland. In this sense, Brockden Brown portrays these anxieties as not only without solid justification, but also as holding the potential to become dangerous and oppressive. Clara’s constant attempts to use Carwin as a scapegoat for her family’s misfortune are suggestive of the way in which such free-floating paranoia feeds segregation and oppression.


Brockden Brown, Charles. Wieland, Or, The Transformation, edited by Philip Barnard and Stephen Shapiro. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2009.

Elliott, Emory. Introduction to Wieland; Or the Transformation and Memoirs of Carwin, the Biloquist, by Charles Brockden Brown, vii – xvii. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Kushner, Howard I. American Suicide: A Psychocultural Exploration. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991.

Levine, Robert S. “Race and Ethnicity.” In A Companion to American Fiction 1780 – 1865, edited by Shirley Samuels, 52 – 63. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, 2008.

Levine, Robert S. “Race and Nation in Brown’s Louisiana Writings of 1803.” In Revising Charles Brockden Brown: Culture, Politics and Sexuality in the Early Republic, edited by Philip Barnard, Mark L. Kamrath and Stephen Shapiro, 332 – 353. Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 2004.

Orestano, Francesca. “The Case for John Neal: Gothic Naturalized.” In Gothick Origins and Innovations, edited by Allan Lloyd Smith and Victor Sage, 95 – 114. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994.

Shields, Juliet. Nation and Migration: The Making of British Atlantic Literature 1765 – 1835. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Kindle edition.

Weinstock, Jeffrey Andrew. Charles Brockden Brown. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2011.

Williams Brown, Susan. Villainy in Brockden Brown’s Wieland and Arthur Mervyn: Structural Unity Throughout the Development of Characters and Universal Themes. Dallas: Texas Woman’s University, 1982.

[1] Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland, Or, The Transformation, ed. Philip Barnard and Stephen Shapiro (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2009). Subsequent references in parenthesis are to this edition. [2] Francesca Orestano, “The Case for John Neal: Gothic Naturalized”, in Gothick Origins and Innovations, ed. Allan Lloyd Smith and Victor Sage (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994), 98. [3] Emory Elliott, introduction to Wieland; Or the Transformation and Memoirs of Carwin, the Biloquist, by Charles Brockden Brown (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), xxix [4] Susan Williams Brown, Villainy in Brockden Brown’s Wieland and Arthur Mervyn: Structural Unity Throughout the Development of Characters and Universal Themes (Dallas: Texas Woman’s University, 1982), 77. [5] Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, Charles Brockden Brown (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2011), 103. [6] Howard I. Kushner, American Suicide: A Psychocultural Exploration (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991), 31. [7] Robert S. Levine, “Race and Nation in Brown’s Louisiana Writings of 1803”, in Revising Charles Brockden Brown: Culture, Politics and Sexuality in the Early Republic, ed. Philip Barnard, Mark L. Kamrath and Stephen Shapiro (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 2004), 342. [8] Robert S. Levine, “Race and Ethnicity”, in A Companion to American Fiction 1780 – 1865, ed. Shirley Samuels (Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, 2008), 55. [9] Juliet Shields, Nation and Migration: The Making of British Atlantic Literature, 1765 – 1835 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), Kindle edition.

Liberal Individualism and Simulation in Wieland

Throughout Wieland the text circles around the possibility of social, and therefore national, progress during the period following the American Revolution. The eventual answers the text might provide are ambiguous and certainly outside the scope of this essay. However, one specific passage that contributes significantly to this textual discussion is contained within Clara’s description her brother and father’s qualities and the procurement of the bust of Cicero and how it sets the tone for the children’s use of their father’s temple. While attempting to break away from established systems of thought, the Wieland clan embrace Enlightenment thinking and with it the reverence for classical civilizations. In doing so, the possibility of progress is replaced with regress as they simply simulate and perform what they conceive to be Roman culture. The similarities between Wieland and his father provide the slate upon which the rejection of certain values begins. They maintain similar characters, appearances and “…were accustomed to [view] …the vicissitudes of human life…”(Brown 22) in the same light. Viewing perpetually changing circumstances in a consistent manner seems paradoxical and lends itself to the idea of society as fundamentally unalterable. The choice of the word “vicissitudes” is notable because it comes from a Latinate root originally meaning ‘by turns’. Given the context of this passage, one can parallel this imagery of turning to revolution, a revolving, originally meaning a rolling back. Such a connection, would lead one to believe that both Wieland men would view revolution ineffective as a means to attaining societal progress. Such analogous traits, however, are neither the most notable, nor the most influential in the course of this passage. The key differences between the Wieland men contradict their likenesses and reveal the underlying ideological fractures that drive the children to attempt to abandon their father’s path. Compared to his father, Wieland’s mind is “…enriched by science…”(Brown 22). The Enlightenment valorization of rationality is here entrenched in the text, and thereby elevates scientific knowledge above other forms. At the heart of this valorization and the scientific method is the assumption that through trial and error improvement can be made and truth can be ascertained. Clara also describes her brother’s mind as having been “…embellished with literature”(Brown 22). This statement frames the mind in aesthetic terms and takes aim at literature in an almost derogatory fashion. Literature’s function becomes to add detail and make more interesting, but not necessarily to improve. Such a stance is contrary to the elder Wieland’s, especially when considered alongside his religious conversion and pilgrimage, which was entirely textually driven (Brown 8). These ideological assumptions underpin the Wieland children’s endeavors to shake loose of old paradigms and venture into new ones. Their attempt first waxes revolutionarily in its appropriation of a sacred space for secular purposes. With seeming disregard for the location of their father’s death, his “…temple was no longer assigned to its ancient use”(Brown 22). In line with her brother’s rational thought, Clara asserts that religious spaces can be designated as non-religious spaces. Considering the paternal figure of the church, that is all the more present because of the elder Wieland’s religious practices, as “ancient” is indicative of revolutionary aims in the perception of the earlier generation as instantly outmoded.The children push toward reassigning the temple into their own “new” space and leave behind remnants of the past, yet fail and simply replace one past with another. For decoration in the temple and in commemoration of one of the Wieland children’s idols, Wieland “…purchased a bust of Cicero”(Brown 22). Superficially, this may not seem altogether counterrevolutionary or anti-progressive, but if one views the post-revolutionary period as ideally one of original cultural production, then such a purchase does seem contradictory. Although such décor is in line with the Enlightenment period’s need for historical figures, especially those who come from ancient democratic societies, to glorify. This element of hero worship can be seen as simply a return to principles of the past, if perhaps a different past, and therefore contrary to revolutionary progress. This vein of replication, rather than innovation, is further detailed by the history of the sculptor and his work. The artist is “…an Italian adventurer…”(Brown 22) who is therefore historically and culturally linked to the ancient Roman civilization. Thus, he is continuing and spreading this cultural linearity. Furthermore, “he professed to have copied this piece from an antique…”(Brown 22). Given that a bust is already a copy of a person, the bust that Wieland purchased is a copy of a copy. This twice-copied image/object is now that which Wieland himself seeks to emulate in his doting over Cicero’s writings. The reproducibility of history and culture threatens the nature of Clara and Wieland’s efforts to use the freedom and space they possess to form something other than that which has existed before. Adding to the complexity of the situation, in which the Wieland children find themselves, is the impossibility in discerning original from replica. They are “not qualified to judge…the truth of [the sculptor’s]…assertions…”(Brown 22). Their predicament immediately contradicts a rationality based on sensory experience because they are persuaded solely by its “marble…pure and polished…”(Brown 22). Although visual aesthetics are certainly reason enough to enjoy art, they are not (normally, or in this case) enough to discover a work of art’s origins. The artist very well could have copied an antique bust, but just as easily could have copied a modern copy of an antique bust. There is no way to know, and it does not really matter. In this instance, all copies lead back to Cicero, one way or another. It is this reproducibility of image and action that creates the conundrum in Mettingen and undermines the possibility of original cultural production or progress.It is the reproducibility of thought, ideology and action through performance that ultimately destabilizes the push for social change and progress. The Wieland’s accept the bust because they are “…contented to admire [the sculptor’s]…performance”(Brown 22). Just as the bust could be replica of a replica, his performance could be a performance of a truth, and thus what we normally regard as a lie. When one begins to unravel things through simulation and performance, the dichotomies of truth and falsehood, original and copy begin to dissolve into one another. And this is precisely what happens when the Wieland’s commission “…the same artist to hew a suitable pedestal from a neighboring quarry”(Brown 22). This pedestal presumably matches the bust, yet is made locally. Therefore, the geologic origin of the bust is called into question since such a bust could have been sculpted from local stone. Perhaps even more intriguing, is the fact that this pedestal, although made by a foreign artist, is the most original product in the passage, even though it is created to accompany a figure of ancient history. These performances push the Wieland’s deeper into regressive modes of functioning and thinking because of the iterability of culture and history. The defining concept of what the temple space becomes is in fact reproduction of another culture and history. Using Roman civilization and Cicero for models, the temple becomes a type of small, private Roman forum where they “…sung, and talked, and read, and occasionally banqueted”(Brown 22). The transformation of the temple complete, nothing innovative takes its place, only replications of various aspects of Roman culture. There “…the performances of our musical and poetical ancestor were rehearsed”(Brown 22). They turn back to different historical conceptions and value systems, but they are still just rehearsals. Not literally only the rehearsals, but also the “…thousand conversations, pregnant with delight and improvement…”(Brown 22). It seems unlikely that the conversations, being emulations of ancient pasts, moved forward significantly. Simultaneously, the Wieland’s children are being educated there, which could be perhaps the clearest example of rehearsal possible (Brown 22). Education being a key manner of cultural transmission, it implies that once taught one will replicate the culture and therefore continue to transmit it. Therefore, Clara and Wieland fail to foster any sort of new cultural or national production and instead replace it with something even older. The passage examined reveals a failed revolutionary attempt that simply replicates a culture other than the one that preceded the revolution and veils regression under the assumption that any alteration in prevailing systems of thought and action must be progress. While this passage cannot serve as a summary of Wieland, it certainly does reveal one of the text’s predominate themes and concerns about a post-revolutionary America. This cautionary passage perhaps can stand in for the parts of the whole text that doubt the possibility of social progress and view any visible changes as simple “vicissitudes of human life”(Brown 22).Works CitedBrown, Charles B. Wieland: and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist. New York: Oxford, 2009. Print.

Development of Mystery in Wieland

Lonely mansions, ghostly apparitions, and magic are some of the elements that create the atmosphere in Gothic stories. In his novel Wieland, Charles Brockden Brown uses most of these to create an aura of mystery and suspense. Brown once said that the Gothic novel was a literary form that could “engage, and transport, and chain down the attention, and sway the passions of the spectator or reader” (qtd. In Voloshin 344). In Wieland, Brown accomplishes this feat by using mystery as a literary technique to thrill the reader and develop the plot of the novel. Brown sets up mystery as an omnipresent force through the use of characterization, supernaturalism, narration, and structure. Brown establishes Clara Wieland as the first-person narrator of the novel, thus her knowledge of the action and the thoughts of other characters is limited to her own experience. Brown focuses consistently on the sensation of Clara, emphasizing her perceptions and feelings (Voloshin 344). It is through her senses and thoughts that the audience is submerged into the novel and storyline. If Brown had chosen an omnipresent narrator the sense of mystery would be lost, since in this type of narration the narrator is usually aware of more information. By Brown choosing Clara as the narrator he purposely limits the audience’s viewpoint and knowledge. Just as Clara is unaware of how the story will develop until something happens, so is the audience held in suspense. Brown did not randomly select the narration style and the novel’s structure, he selected these characteristics with the purpose of developing the element of mystery. Brown wrote the novel in the form of epistolarity, a literary form that involves using letters. In Wieland the end of every letter represents the end of a chapter. The author takes advantage of this literary form by putting important details he wants to emphasize at the end of certain letters. Be doing this Brown is able to foreshadow and point out certain details to the reader. Furthermore, Brown creates a sense of suspense by leaving some questions unanswered until the beginning of the next letter. Such is the case at the end of chapter 15, when Clara finds Wieland’s home empty; here Brown leaves the audience wondering what happened to the family. Brown further creates a sense of mystery and suspense at the end of this chapter, by creating anticipation about the mysterious meeting that is to take place between Clara and Carwin. The end of this chapter/letter is just an example of the numerous times Brown leaves the audience in wonder and wanting to keep on reading. Clara is not only important to the novel as the narrator, but Brown also selects her to be the heroine of the story. Brown creates the characters of Clara and Carwin to further develop the sense of mystery through characterization. Even though Clara is one of the main characters, the readers do not learn her name until several pages into the novel. Likewise Brown limits the audience’s personal knowledge of Clara until about the third chapter. Previous to this point the main focus is on Clara’s father and his death, limiting the reader’s personal knowledge of Clara and her current life. The novel reaches its zenith of mystery through the characterization of Carwin. From the moment he is introduced there is an eerie atmosphere surrounding him. When Clara begins the chapter that will introduce the reader’s to Carwin, she states that she has “now come to the mention of a person with whose name the most turbulent sensations are connected” (Brown 45). Yet the readers are unaware of why these “sensation” are connected with Carwin until almost the end of the novel. When Carwin is introduced to the readers he is described as a “clown” in rags with an awkward walk, whom Clara happens to see strolling by her house. Just as Carwin mysteriously appears he suddenly and mysteriously disappears, until the chapter where he is reintroduced by Pleyel as an acquaintance he met in Europe. Rather than clear up the confusion, Pleyel’s description of Carwin adds to the sense of mystery surrounding this particular character. The scarce knowledge available concerning him is not helpful, but rather deceiving. The main source of Carwin’s mystery arises from the fact that he vehemently refuses to talk about his past: “of his own history, previous to his transformation into a Spaniard, he was invariably silent” (Brown 63). From his observations Pleyel mistakes him for an Englishmen, but that is all the characters and readers learn about Carwin. Carwin might be a mystery, but he is an influential force when it comes to plot development and the intensifying sense of mystery. At the end of the novel Carwin will be revealed as the source of the mysterious voices that make the characters question their senses. The “disembodied voices” that the characters hear do not fit into the order of nature of the novel, therefore they must be explained at some point (Voloshin 345). Towards the end of the novel, the voices are explained as Carwin’s use of his talent as a ventriloquist, but for the majority of the story the “voices” are the foremost source of mystery and supernatural activity. Nevertheless it is important to note that the “voices” are not the first or only supernatural incident to occur in the novel. Within the first few chapters of the novel Wieland and Clara’s father suffers from an unexplainable accident – his clothes suddenly catch on fire without any reason for combustion. Through the history of the Wieland family Brown introduces a series of supernatural incidents. In regard to the voices the blurring of reality and the confusion of the senses create the sense of mystery within the novel. The voices influence the actions of two important characters, Pleyel and Wieland. By far the worst effects are those experienced by Wieland, whose belief in the voices alter his perception to the point of destruction. Through the character of Wieland, Brown uses Gothic conventions to explore psychological themes (Rosenthal). When Wieland first hears the mysterious voices, different characters have different explanations for what he heard. The mystery is in the rise as Clara wonders whether the voices are an element of the supernatural or if Wieland is the victim of delusions of the senses (Voloshin 346). Just as she is unsure, so are the readers perplexed by this new mystery. The mystery grows when Clara also hears voices plotting to kill her. The voices turn her house, in particularly her closet, into a place of mystery and dread. Who are the voices in Clara’s closets and why do they want to kill her? For a long time this question agonizes not only Clara, but also the readers. Them the voices are heard by a third character, Pleyel. He hears Carwin faking a romantic meeting between him and Clara during which Clara supposedly declares her love for him. This deeply affects Pleyel to the point where he wants nothing to do with Clara, viewing her as a disgraceful individual.The voices that Carwin fakes create all the mystery and conflicts between the characters of the novel. However, for the majority of the novel both the readers and Clara are unaware of his responsibility as the source of trouble. The mystery does not end once we learn that Carwin is accountable for the voices. On the contrary more questions are raised as the reason for Carwin’s behavior are not explained. Is he in love with Clara? Why does is he want to destroy the Wieland family? Where does he really come from and why is he in their town? Most of these questions are eventually answered as Carwin confesses his intents and guilt to Clara. Yet, just as some of these mysteries are solved a new one is created, the murder of Catherine and her children. To Clara’s dismay, she soon learns that Wieland was the murderer, but that does not answer the question of why he did it. Did he really hear the voice of God or has he gone mad? In the end the answer seems to be a combination of both, for once Wieland is convinced he can hear voices his psychological state becomes unstable. Even by the end of the novel, Wieland’s actions and thoughts remain a major mystery to Clara since she never fully understands what occurred to her brother.In Wieland, the atmosphere of mystery is a by-product of the confusion between reality and the supernatural elements that fill the pages of this novel. All events that appeared to be supernatural or irrational are at the end of the text explained rationally, but the read has nonetheless enjoyed a novel full of skillfully rendered mystery.BIBLIOGRAPHYBrown, Charles Brockden. Wieland, or the Transformation. Oxford University Press. Oxford, England. 1994. Longueil, Alfred. The Word “Gothic” in Eighteenth Century Criticism. Modern Language Notes, Vol. 38, No. 8. (Dec., 1923), pp. 453-460. Rosenthal, Bernard. Charles Brockden Brown. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 37: American Writers of the Early Republic. The Gale Group, 1985. Pp. 69-81.Voloshin, Beverly. Wieland: “Accounting for Appearances.” The New England Quarterly, Vol. 59, No. 3. September 1986. Pgs. 341-357

Consider the Source

As the narrator of Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland, Clara is unreliable. The fantastic events she recounts are unbelievable and unexplained, leading readers to question the validity of her tale. For example, she introduces the theory of empiricism, which claims that all humans are born with a blank slate, completely dependent upon their senses for the knowledge they attain. However, Clara reveals the altered state of her own senses, leading readers to doubt her credibility as a narrator. Through this theory, Clara is exposed as an untrustworthy source for the novel, indicating that the events that she narrates are false. Clara introduces the theory of empiricism early in the story. She states, “the will is the tool of the understanding, which must fashion its conclusions on the notices of sense” (39). Thus, human beings are born with a blank slate, and all knowledge attained since birth is gained through their senses. However, she admits that “if the senses be depraved, it is impossible to calculate the evils that may flow from the consequent deductions of the understanding” (39). Through this theory we can infer that, if Clara’s senses have been impaired through her emotional trauma, then her understanding of her surroundings have been impaired as a result. However, what if one’s senses have been depraved by madness? Clara’s own senses have been altered due to her emotional trauma, impairing her mental status. Therefore, her ability to understand the events occurring around her have been impaired, and she, as a narrator, is proven unreliable.Clara’s state of mind has been impaired by her emotional trauma and condition, making her an unreliable witness to the events she describes. She admits that nothing “but ambiguities, abruptnesses, and dark transitions can be expected from the historian who is, at the same time, the sufferer of these disasters” (167). Clara acknowledges that in her present state of mind, she is not to be fully trusted, and her account of the past events is prone to mistakes and uncertainty. She claims that, as one who has endured and suffered through tragic events, her ability to relate all of these tragic events may not be completely accurate. Meanwhile, she is struggling to complete her letter of the events that had transpired, but declares that she “will persist to the end”, at least living long enough to finish telling her story (167). However, as she rushes to complete recounting her narrative, she says that, in her hurried state, the history she has recorded may be at risk of mistakes. Her tone in this passage is frantic and harried-the voice of desperation. She fears that she may be killed at any moment. This desperation exposes her present mental status, belying her credibility as a narrator, as she herself admits to the “inaccuracy and confusion” that litter her entire narrative (167).Due to the mental trauma and emotional turmoil that has impaired Clara’s rationality, her narrative is filled with numerous faults, leading readers to doubt the legitimacy of the rest of her account. When giving the “imperfect account” of her father’s death, she concludes it as “the sum of the information which [he] chose to give”, implying that there is yet information concerning his death that is unspoken or unknown (20). When reflecting upon the same incident, she offers two explanations as to the cause of her father’s demise-divine interference or a medical irregularity of the heart (21). However, she leaves the conclusion open-ended, indicating that she is unsure of the cause as well. Upon her account of Carwin’s introduction, she states that her “fancy had conjured up a very different image” from his true appearance (60). When only hearing his voice, Clara imagines a far different vision of Carwin, expecting someone “worthy to accompany such elocution” (60). The vast difference in the image she had drawn from her expectation and the truth suggests that the rest of her narrative may be subject to her “fancy” as well. She later comments that “ideas exist in our minds that can be accounted for by no established laws” (100), signifying that her “ideas” and “fancies” are not subject to rationality or reason, but rather to her senses and mental status. Those being impaired further establishes that her narrative is untrue. Clara’s emotional and mental state is erratic and confirms her as an untrustworthy source for the events that occurred in Wieland. Due to the trauma she has suffered as well as her emotional state when writing this piece, her understanding of reality at the time was tenuous, at best, and so her narrative is not to be fully trusted. She declares that the senses control one’s perception and understanding. Yet in her admittance of not being of sound mind and sense, Clara invalidates her ability to perceive the events around her, making her an unreliable source as narrator. Of course, if her account is not to be trusted, one can doubt the validity of the entire narrative.

Charles Brockden Brown’s Clara, an Archetype of the Classic Eighteenth-Century Woman

Although Leslie A. Fiedler calls Charles Brockden Brown the “inventor of the American writer,” and sees the revolt of the European middle classes translating in America to “feminism and anti-intellectualism,” Brockden Brown seems to have a problem imbuing Clara, his narrator in Wieland, with these same qualities (145). From the one-line reference [in the Advertisement] to the book’s narration by “the lady whose story it contains,” to the final explanation of that narrator’s marriage to a man who placed her in an untenable (and life threatening) situation with his erroneous and unspeakable accusations, Charles Brockden Brown has created, in the character of Clara, an accurate representation of the predicament of the typical eighteenth-century American woman.Despite the fact that Clara is allowed (by her brother) to live alone in her own cottage, called Mettingen, because of her desire to “administer a fund and regulate a household” of her own, it is a superficial independence at best. She is independently wealthy, through the inheritance left by her father, who gained his riches from the toil of slaves. Her residence is a scant three-quarters of a mile from her brother’s home and “the short distance allowed us to exchange visits as often as we pleased,” meaning her brother’s assistance lay a short distance from her front door (Brown 20). Clara does have male company come and go in her residence, but the visitor is chiefly Pleyel, her brother’s brother-in-law, and the man with whom she is secretly in love, (a woman of this era would never be the first to declare her feelings openly before receiving a similar declaration from the object of her affections!).Despite Clara’s outward appearance as an intellectual woman with an interest in art, music and literature, she is nevertheless a sheltered, inexperienced woman, immured in a small corner of the world, surrounded by her brother, Theodore Wieland, his wife, Catherine, and Henry Pleyel. Other than the rare visit by an outsider that occasioned much excitement in the neighborhood, and an occasional visit by family acquaintances, Clara is isolated from the world-at large. This, then, makes the disaffection of Pleyel a much more earth-shattering experience when it occurs.Although readers of Wieland know about the deception that leads to Pleyel’s antipathy toward Clara, she does not, and her reactions are that of a typically helpless eighteenth-century woman. She has no weapons to fight back with when Pleyel accuses her. “The matter–O Wretch!–thus exquisitely fashioned–on whom nature seemed to have exhausted all her graces; with charms so awful and so pure! How art thou fallen! From what height fallen! A ruin so complete–so unheard of” (Brown 95). After his hideous and shocking accusations, Pleyel leaves Clara standing in her home, confused and hurt by his perfidy. Where does she turn for comfort and assistance? She goes to her brother, Wieland, who assures her he believes in her integrity because she is his sister (Brown 101). When Wieland lets Clara know Pleyel had some sort of proof of her assignation with the enigmatic stranger, Carwin, she is distraught, because she has no way to prove her innocence. “What but my own assertion had I to throw in the balance against it? Would this be permitted to outweigh the testimony of his senses? I had no witnesses to prove my existence in another place”(Brown 102). Clara steps out of the role of the typical eighteenth-century woman when she determines to accost Pleyel in his own rooms to demand an explanation. A woman going to the room of a single man, unescorted, was a way to earn the reputation Pleyel had already attributed to her. But, alas, when she arrives and tries to reason an answer to the baffling question of what had so changed Pleyel’s attitude toward her, she is at a loss for an explanation when Pleyel, ever the one to resist any explanation that included the supernatural, or defied his senses, cannot be swayed . He accuses her anew, packs his belongings and leaves her standing there. And like any other well-mannered eighteenth-century female–she faints.(Brown 109-110).Clara’s relationship with Pleyel is not the only one that demonstrates the weakness of her position. The desperate situation with her brother, the murderer of his own family, and the would-be murderer of Clara, is also beyond her control. She has no power to change his convictions that the voice of God instructed him to carry out his deadly misdeeds. And when Wieland finally comes for Clara, just after Carwin has given his limited explanation of what happened and his role in bringing it about, she is unable to take up the knife to defend herself against the male authority figure in her life2E She is shattered when he uses her knife to accomplish the deed she had considered and rejected (Brown 111-112).Through much of the desperate time after her brother kills his family, Clara’s uncle shoulders the role of authority figure, assuming Clara is too weak to withstand the truth, and urging her to move to Europe with him. Certain that her life is nearly at an end, Clara gives her consent “merely because he was entitled to my gratitude, and because my refusal gave him pain” (Brown 169). She does finally go to Europe, following the death of her brother, and her own failure to die from the oppressive burdens she carried. It is while she is in Europe that she reunites with Pleyel. But no, it is not Clara who convinces him of her integrity. It is Carwin, the mysterious perpetrator of their sorrows, who seeks out Pleyel and confesses his part in the deception. Faced with a realistic rather supernatural explanation, Pleyel accepts the veracity of Clara’s innocence (Brown 218). This last chapter is a prime example of how women of this era held no power. Clara’s word, even though Pleyel claims to love her, is not good enough to convince him of her innocence. Her reputation must be restored by another man. Then, as though Pleyel had not nearly caused her death from the mental breakdown she suffered, Clara marries him. In the last chapter, even though she condemns her brother for not framing “juster notions of moral duty,” she allows Carwin to go free, and Pleyel to remain uncensured for his treatment of her–typical of her new position as a married woman. She cannot publicly castigate the man she is married to (Brown 223-224).Charles Brockden Brown includes many elements of Romantic literature, the emphasis on the imagination, a predilection for the mysterious, the weird, the occult, the diseased, and even the Satanic, in the dark image of Carwin. He allows Clara, through his selected mode of storytelling, (epistolary) to examine the human personality, in search of spiritual and rational truths. Brown knew that “Romantic critics such as Schleiermacher called for readers’ sympathetic identification with the author” (Leitch 12). He understood that “writing books that sold required entertaining as well as edifying their readers” (Lauter 1233). Brown was astute enough to realize that the developing changes in the country after the American Revolution, with the advent of factories to manufacture the goods formerly produced by women in the home, created an audience of educated, idle women (Lauter 1243). With the restrictions society placed on eighteenth-century women preventing them from seeking employment outside the home, owning property, or participating in the political decisions of the country, Brown realized the majority of novel readers in that era were female, and he would need a strong, identifiable female narrator. However, in trying to write a popular novel which would appeal to female readers, he had to put himself in a woman’s shoes and try to bring out a more feminist perspective. Instead, Clara begins to sound like a woman writing like a man. In which case we have a “man, writing like a woman, writing like a man” (Aaij ).Even though Brown does imbrue his Gothic tale with the darker elements of evil, and manages to “connect a bygone time with the very present,” and has “provided himself with a moral–the truth, namely, that the wrongdoing of one generation lives into the successive ones,” as Hawthorne believed a good Romance must do (7-8), he doesn’t succeed in connecting it to his supposed main character, Clara. Instead, the tortured past religious frenzy of her father and his strange death by spontaneous combustion is linked to the madness that envelops her brother Wieland. Throughout Wieland, readers are left asking just who is the main character? Is it the narrator, Clara, from whose viewpoint the story is told? Or is it Theodore Wieland, the title character to whom the subtitle The Transformation refers? Or is it Carwin, the evil persona who sets the entire sequence of evil events in motion with his strange vocal ability (Aaij )?Charles Brockden Brown’s novel, Wieland, succeeds on the Gothic level, bursting with evil doings, mystical occurrences, tormented maidens, and the eventual triumph of love in the end. However, where he falls short of exemplifying the Romantic ideal is in the individualism, an important characteristic of Romantic fiction. Brown’s characters are “passive matter in his hands. He troubles himself little if any to individualize” (Duyckinck 8). His failure to actually create a strong, identifiable female character in Clara is most likely the reason he was not a financial success. And to follow Wieland with Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist is just another way of putting Clara back in her eighteenth-century place.If Clara’s narrative is hemmed in by a title page on which she has no place, and an Advertisement in which she is only a point of view, she is also enclosed on the other side, for Brown’s intent is that she never have the last word; the end of the story is Carwin’s, whose autobiographical account gives him the last word–if Brown’s audience gives a favorable reception to Wieland (Aaij ).Perhaps Brown himself made a distinction between Romanticism, which “designates a literary and philosophical theory that tends to see the individual at the center of all life” (Holman 416), and the romantic novel, which is “marked by strong interest in action, with episodes often based on love, [Clara and Wieland, Clara and Pleyel, Wieland and Catherine, Carwin and Clara] adventure, [Clara’s midnight rendezvous, her return to her home following the murders] and combat [Clara and Carwin’s confrontations, Wieland’s murders, his attempted murder of Clara, Clara and Pleyel’s arguments, Clara and her uncle’s disagreements]. . .a novel more concerned with action than with character” (Holman 416). If this is the case, then Charles Brockden Brown must be labeled a successful Romantic writer, albeit a less than technically skillful writer who fails to tie up loose ends [Louisa Conway]satisfactorily, and who fails at trying to speak from the heart and mind of a woman.WORKS CITEDAaij, Michael. “Charles Brockden Brown and Wieland’s Clara: A Man Writing Like a WomanWriting Like a Man.” 33rd Annual Comparative Literature Symposium “Women in the Eighteenth Century.” Philadelphia. 27 Jan. 2000.Brown, Charles Brockden. Wieland. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.Duyckinck, Evert A. “Charles Brockden Brown.” Cyclopaedia of American Literature. NewYork: C. Scribner, 1856.Fiedler, Leslie A. Love and Death in the American Novel. Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 1997.Hawthorne, Nathaniel. House of Seven Gables. 1851.Holman, C. Hugh, and William Harmon. A Handbook to Literature. 6th ed. New York:Macmillan, 1992.Lauter, Paul. “Early Nineteenth Century.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed.Paul Lauter. Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Co., 1994. 1228-1262.Leitch, Vincent B. “Introduction to Theory and Criticism.” The Norton Anthology of Theory andCriticism. General Ed. Vincent Leitch. New York: W.W.Norton, 2001. 1-28.