English Gothic literature began during the Romanticism period and has lasted until today still holding its own crowd of people and fans who enjoy the work. Gothic literature became part of the American writings when in the 1800s Charles Brockden Brown wrote his very first published novel, Wieland or, the transformation. Wieland shared many alike and different traits to the English gothic literature of the old times such as, trickery, deceit, ancestral curses, and explained supernatural events that drive the mild mannered Wieland into a crazed killing machine. (Thomson)
It is hard to define gothic literature in modern day English so instead of defining it, it has been divided up into four different types of gothic literature, equivocal gothic, supernatural gothic, historical gothic, and natural or explained gothic. Equivocal gothic makes events in the text ambiguous by way of mentally disturbed characters. Supernatural gothic consists of unexplainable events that may involve ghosts, zombies and other creatures of the dead. Natural or explained gothic first starts out as an unexplainable, supernatural event, but then unmasks itself becoming a feasible event that could happen currently in our society today. Historical gothic is a scenario set in the past with no occurrence of supernatural events.
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Gothic literature can be summarized into four major points that often appear in most gothic writings. The first is the appearance of the supernatural or uncanny usually in or from a paranormal source. The second is the appearance of both terror, mental trauma, or horror, gore and violence. The fourth is a sense of mystery, distress and dread. The final aspect that could be found is the distressed heroine who usually is in trouble either being threatened by death, or forced to do an act, which she does not want to do. Gothic literature is also considered very feminine because of how the protagonist is usually female and female authors write most books.
Wieland is a novel filled with mystery and deception. Its can be classified as, equivocal gothic, because of how the mentally disturbed characters run the story, supernatural gothic, because of the unexplained spontaneous combustion that befalls Wieland Sr., and explained supernatural, because of how The “voices of god” turn out just to be a prank by Carwin’s Ventriloquism.
Transformation or all the characters takes place in the novel such as Carwin’s Ventriloquism transforming Wieland from a calm man to a religious man of sorrows who slays his own wife and children. Clara also transforms from a sweet and innocent girl to discovering her murderous instincts. Carwin mentions that he has a “second personality” that forced him to do all of the heinous deeds he committed but at the end of the novel, it seems that he still hasn’t changed from his old ways.
Another term that shows itself in Wieland is the explainable and unexplainable supernatural. The explainable supernatural occurs when Carwin uses his ventriloquism and impressions to make Theodore hear the fake voices of god that trigger his transformation. Carwin also impersonates Clara’s voice and Catherine’s voice throughout the novel. The unexplained supernatural is portrayed about why Wieland Sr. spontaneously combusted. He was a very religious man who supposedly did not obey god. This event is never explained in the book and remains a mystery even today. This event could be also classified as an ancestral curse because of this event possibly set of a chain reaction of events that caused the trauma in this novel. Two psychologies also exist in gothic literature, horror, and terror. Brown decided to use terror. The psychology of Wieland possesses a mysterious and eerie atmosphere. This atmosphere is used to psychologically scare and freak out the characters, classifying Wieland as a novel of terror.
Wieland compares with English gothic literature because, in theory, it still is. Even though it was written in America, It holds many of the traits that could classify it as English gothic literature. When this book was published as the first American gothic novel it inspired many writers. If it was not for Wieland, Edgar Allen Poe and Nathanial Hawthorne may have not written gothic literature at all and gothic literature as a whole would cease to exist in the Americas.
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