Wieland Paperback – September 23, 2014
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- Publisher : CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 23, 2014)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 270 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1501092545
- ISBN-13 : 978-1501092541
- Item Weight : 14.1 ounces
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.68 x 9 inches
Best Sellers Rank:
#14,610,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #245,759 in Classic Literature & Fiction
- Customer Reviews:
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The story is an Americanized Gothic romance. The spirit of Gothic literature pervades the tale, but the setting has been transferred from old castles and courtly settings to a recognizably American rural landscape which is preeminently beautiful rather than spooky. The horrors described so effectively by Brown are borne in the minds of the characters. The female protagonist Clara narrates the tortured history of her family. Her father dies mysteriously, perhaps by spontaneous combustion, ostensibly due to his failure to follow God's will in his life. She enjoys a happy adult life with her brother and his wife until a stranger named Carwin appears and quickly becomes a part of their inner circle. Carwin eventually becomes Clara's tormentor. She, her brother, and their mutual friend Pleyel all hear mysterious, unexplained voices warning them of danger and imparting fateful news on several occasions. Her brother, deeply religious like his father, is greatly affected by these phenomena--how much so we learn later in the novel. Carwin fatefully destroys Clara's life when his evil designs paint her as a harlot in Pleyel's eye. Her unrequited love for Pleyel is now met with his condemnation of her--the agony of the charges against her is particularly poignant in the early American era in which the story takes place. On the fateful night, she discovers Carwin hiding in her home, and he admits to having had murderous designs on her. Her sorrows are greatly magnified the following day by the murder of her brother's wife and five children by none other than her own beloved brother. She blames Carwin for having influenced her brother to commit murder, but we later learn that dementia itself is almost surely to blame for her brother's wrongs. Before the tale ends, she faces a confrontation with both Carwin and her murderous brother, an experience which she is fortunate to survive.
The tale itself is wonderful. The suspense Brown draws out and continually heightens is first-rate. Clara's encounters with voices and human spirits hidden in the darkness of her bedroom are spine-tingling. The language of the novel does make it a work that requires some concentration on the part of the reader and may serve to frustrate some, but I think it greatly magnifies the horrific aspects of the tale. The dialogues of the actors are admittedly overdramatic and drawn out. No one speaks in this book; rather, everyone makes speeches. The protagonist often resorts to long laments of her great woe and asks how she can possibly go on with the story. Despite such dramatics on her part, though, Clara is clearly a brave, independent woman (reflecting Brown's strong and admirable commitment to the rights of women). Overall, the tale delivers a buffet of the passive voice style of writing, which I for one refuse not to love; even the most unimportant sentences are graced with a flowery, beautiful aspect.
In terms of the Gothic element to the story, one cannot say that the supernatural aspects are wholly disproved in the end--to some extent they are, but not to such an extent that Wieland's murderous actions can be explained by them. Clearly, Wieland did hear voices other than those made by Carwin the biloquist. The air of mystery that remains about Wieland's dementia and the causes of it makes the ending more successful than I feared it would be once I learned of the power of ventriloquism exercised by Carwin to dictate many of the related events. My only complaint is with the final chapter, which is basically an epilogue in the protagonist's journal. Inexplicably, it introduces a new character to explain something about a minor character whom I frankly could not even remember.
This was not just an enjoyable and unusual execution of the gothic novel, but simply a good read, and a fascinating precursor to other American writers like Edgar Allen Poe.
Four stars out of five, because I did not care for the epilogue; it feels a little tacked on.
I believe that there is a reason the name "Charles Brockden Brown" isn't nearly the household name that "Ernest Hemingway" or "Shakespeare" is.