It is structured as a first person narrative in the form of two letters by Clara Wieland. In the first letter, Clara begins her narrative by informing her readers that her tale concerns the horrors that befell her family and she hopes that its telling will impart a moral lesson. Her father was an extremely religious man whose Calvinist beliefs were filtered through the lens of an apocalyptic French Protestant sect, the Camissards. His character was inclined to sobriety, melancholy, and religious ecstasy. Believing he had a missionary calling, he moved to the rural outskirts of Philadelphia from Saxony to proselytize the Indians; he soon married and had two children, Clara and Theodore referred to later in the novel as Wieland. One evening when his children were young, he suffered an inexplicable death at the temple overlooking the river that he had built to worship his God.
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It is structured as a first person narrative in the form of two letters by Clara Wieland. In the first letter, Clara begins her narrative by informing her readers that her tale concerns the horrors that befell her family and she hopes that its telling will impart a moral lesson. Her father was an extremely religious man whose Calvinist beliefs were filtered through the lens of an apocalyptic French Protestant sect, the Camissards. His character was inclined to sobriety, melancholy, and religious ecstasy.
Believing he had a missionary calling, he moved to the rural outskirts of Philadelphia from Saxony to proselytize the Indians; he soon married and had two children, Clara and Theodore referred to later in the novel as Wieland. One evening when his children were young, he suffered an inexplicable death at the temple overlooking the river that he had built to worship his God. A strange cloud, bright light, and loud boom augured his death.
Clara and her brother never truly knew what happened to their father, but Clara believed its cause was either spontaneous human combustion or the work of a divine, supernatural force. The main events of the novel occurred many years later.
Clara lived in a small house on the edge of the Wieland estate. The Wielands and Pleyels enjoyed a close-knit, insular intimacy filled with happiness and ease. Wieland was apt to believe in more supernatural explanations, but Pleyel encouraged him to conclude that his senses had deceived him. Clara herself began hearing voices; she heard two men within her closet plotting her death and another warning her away from her summer-house, a secluded outdoor spot she particularly enjoyed.
At this time another individual was introduced into the Wieland circle - Francis Carwin , an intelligent and well-mannered but mysterious man recently returned from traveling throughout Spain. Clara found herself strongly enthralled by his voice and physiognomy. Pleyel never came and Clara was overcome with depression and anxiety. She had recently discovered that she was in love with Pleyel and had hoped to inform him of her feelings that evening.
When she was alone in her chamber, consumed by morose thoughts, she suddenly felt that there was someone within her closet. To her surprise, a voice warned her not to open it, but when she persisted and finally flung the doors wide, Carwin was hiding inside. He told her the divine voice protected her from his designs upon her purity. Upon relaying this information, he fled. The next day Clara was shocked when Pleyel, returned after his absence, accused her being in love with Carwin and relinquishing her virginity to him.
Clara was heartbroken at these false allegations but Pleyel persisted, claiming his senses could not be deceived. In his travels in town Pleyel also discovered that Carwin was wanted abroad for murder and robbery. After meditating on the wisdom of accepting this invitation, she decided she would hear what he had to say. When she got to her house at the appointed hour she was surprised to see a light in her chamber. As she headed up the stairs she heard a shrill voice warning her away and saw a strange, frightening face in the hallway.
Her brother appeared, discombobulated and frenzied, but ran out when a crowd of neighbors and townspeople rushed in. This information was so distressing to Clara that she fainted and became ill. In his testimony, he states he committed the murders because he was absolutely convinced that he was commanded to do so by God as a test of faith.
Clara was horrified, especially as she believed Carwin must have played a role in the crimes. She agreed to leave America and travel throughout Europe with her uncle at his request. Before she left for Europe, Clara returned to her house to retrieve her diary that she had left there.
To her astonishment, Carwin appeared in her room and confessed that he was responsible for almost all of the voices she and the family heard, although he did not explicitly admit to perpetrating the voices encouraging Wieland to murder his family. He had the gift of biloquism, which meant he could mimic the voices of others and project them from whatever distance he chose. He admitted to using this gift in the past for personal gain and amusement, but expressed extreme regret at the events that befell the Wielands.
He also explained that he was not a murderer and a thief but was framed by an enemy. He attempted to murder Clara but Carwin, who fled the room, used his voice to stop Wieland. When Wieland heard the voice telling him that he had murdered his family in error, he became profoundly anguished and fatally stabbed himself in the neck. Following this tragedy, Clara descended into madness and could barely go on. This torpor finally broke when her house, which she refused to leave and wanted to die in, caught fire and burned down.
She was restored to sanity and finally agreed to accompany her uncle to Europe as they had planned earlier. She explained how she finally married Pleyel, who learned she did not lose her purity.
Carwin was never heard from again, and she assumed he was retired to some farm, eluding his enemy.
Charles Brockden Brown
Main characters[ edit ] Clara Wieland is the narrator of the story, and the sister of Theodore Wieland. She is an intellectual, and has strong character. She is secretly in love with Henry Pleyel. Theodore Wieland hears disembodied voices, and believes these voices tell him to kill his family. He is not as strong as his sister, Clara, which makes him fall prey to the voices and go insane.
Early life[ edit ] Brown was born on January 17, ,  the fourth of five brothers and six surviving siblings total in a Philadelphia Quaker merchant family. His father Elijah Brown, originally from Chester County, Pennsylvania , just southwest of Philadelphia, had a variable career primarily as a land-conveyancer or agent in real estate transactions. The two oldest brothers, Joseph and James, and youngest brother Elijah, Jr. After six years in Philadelphia at the law office of Alexander Wilcocks , he ended his law studies in The New York group included a number of young male professionals who called themselves the Friendly Club including Dr. During most of the s, Brown developed his literary ambitions in projects that often remained incomplete for example the so-called "Henrietta Letters," transcribed in the Clark biography and frequently used his correspondence with friends as a laboratory for narrative experiments.
WIELAND; OR THE TRANSFORMATION