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American Gothic Novel “Wieland” by Brown

Wieland as a Gothic Novel

Wieland is a great example of an early gothic novel. The gothic elements of its storytelling and narratively play an irreplaceable role and critically frame the main points of the discussion. To be precise, the use of the more supernatural elements is used as a way to highlight the character’s paranoia and erratic behaviors. At the same time, there is no proof of supernatural or suspicious behavior persists at their estate. The Wieland family slowly becomes more and more affected by Carwin’s practical joke, growing distrustful and scared. One of the primary ways genre conventions are used is misleading the audience. During the course of the narrative, the primary characters continue to hear voices around the house, guiding them or instructing them to avoid certain types of situations. This is seen, for example, when Clara suddenly has a feeling someone is hiding in her closet. The audience sees a disembodied voice say that the heroine is not supposed to open the closet, which she disobeys, finding a threat to her life and chastity, Carwin, inside. Through the application and the variety of voices characters hear, the first assumption a genre-savvy individual makes about the novel is assuming the presence of the supernatural. This assessment is soon proved wrong, however, when Carwin is revealed to have been responsible for them by the end of the work. The difference between audience expectation and reality creates intrigue and strays from genre conventions in an interesting way.

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Voices and the Novel’s Meaning

From my personal perspective, the use of such genre elements was effectively put to use to highlight the importance of having control over one’s life. Both Clara and Theodore’s resolve is tested with the seemingly supernatural aspects of the book. They both start to hear voices telling them to act in a certain way or do particular things. While Clara is able to handle herself and make her own decisions, as shown primarily by the closet scene, her brother ultimately comes to be possessed by his own fears and starts killing others. By the end of the work, it is understood that the supernatural events occurring at the house are rather regular in nature, while Theodore seems to be simply both disturbed and too gullible. Another application for voices as a part of the novel comes with the critique of putting one’s trust in authority and the supernatural. Characters throughout the novel question the validity of voices and their own judgement, leading to developments in their understanding of the world, themselves, and others. Clara, as the protagonist, is most prominently seen trying to make sense of the world using a set of beliefs she has acquired throughout life. In her mind, there is constantly a battle between superstition and realism, faith and science. On the topic of her father’s death, she says:

“Was this the penalty of disobedience? This the stroke of a vindictive and invisible hand? Is it a fresh proof that the Divine Ruler interferes in human affairs, meditates an end, selects, and commissions his agents, and enforces, by unequivocal sanctions, submission to his will? Or, was it merely the irregular expansion of the fluid that imparts warmth to our heart and our blood, caused by the fatigue of the preceding day, or flowing, by established laws, from the condition of his thoughts?” (Brown).

The quote most aptly highlights the internal struggle of her outlook on the world, having to manage to understand its events navigating two diametrically opposed perspectives. The novel, highlighting the danger of believing the voices, also says that unquestionable authority and the supernatural should be challenged by people.

Work Cited

Brown, Charles Brockden. Wieland. Portland: Mint Editions, 2021. Print.

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