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Morality in Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland Essay

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Updated: Dec 27th, 2021

Introduction

The novel Wieland by Charles Brocken Brown has been received both positively and negatively by those who have analyzed the themes of the book. It is regarded by most people as literature that sentimentally and gothically relays tradition of the society. The narratives of the novel address such elements as suicide, murder, insanity, and seduction. Wieland is perceived by many to be basing its arguments in notion of Puritanism. Other scholars however feel that the piece of literature is a historical parable and self based allegory as depicted in the book itself. The story presents a tale of the Wielands as a precautionary tale that is meant to cushion against taking hard stance in religious matters; Theodore Wieland’s over-commitment to religion is presented in this book as the critical cause of the tragedies that befall this family.

The principles of morality

The very beginning of the logical story reveals the reasons for questioning the moral and religious issues exaggerated to the extent of implicit faith. The main characters of the novel Wieland are Clara and Theodore Wieland. The Wielands’ father gained his wealth due to several factors: “The cheapness of land, and the service of African slaves, which were then in general use, gave him who was poor in Europe all the advantages of wealth” (Brown 10). It can be assumed that he felt remorse because of his yearning for wealth instead of being truly religious. His death is a result of his desire to reconnect with his spiritual supreme being that makes him go to temple. He eventually meets his death after a thunderous strike and exposition. This occurrence is described as a spontaneous combustion and later on their family’s mother dies and lives Theodore and Clara to depend on human sympathy and religion. The religion has been the matter of life for their father. So, Theodore believes this to be an integral part of their lives as well. The death of their father has opened a way to religious and philosophic interpretations of wealth that does not go well with commitment.

The commitment of the old Wieland is obvious and a bit ridiculous because a person believes that some religious aspects spread among indigenous people can make him closer to Deity and godlike affairs. In this respect, the commitment of Theodore grows further and becomes a mania, especially after hearing strange voices. An ordinary person that does not know about the God and similar things would become concerned about his or her mental health. However, Theodore Wieland is absolutely sure that the voices belong to Deity and should be followed. This idea of Deity voices can be easily attributed to his over-commitment to the Bible and a desire to follow his father’s foundations.

When Henry, Catherine’s brother, jets in from Europe and he together with Theodore resort to an argument about philosophy and the issue of religion, we can clearly see the level of commitment and devotion demonstrated by Theodore in debate. Regarding this, we can assume how vigorous can such person be in putting theory into practice and proving the devotion in action. In this respect, Theodore can be treated as a religious fanatic whose over-commitment is the main reason of all tragedies experienced by the members of this family. It is absolutely clear that he is not able to regard the religion as a belief in something wiser than people supported with emotional background.

Theodore Wieland believes the voice he can hear and decides to act with an even self-motivated idea of killing Pleyel and his sister to show God how committed and obedient he is to Him. As a religious fanatic can be even more persistent that any other one in proving to all around, him/her self and the Deity that his/her faith is strong, we should take this into account while observing the actions of Wieland. His attempt to murder Clara is aborted following neighbors’ inception and as a result, Wieland is taken to prison. It is necessary to mention that the true religion and the real Deity would not require any proofs of somebody’s faith and commitment. The moral values of a vigorous religious fanatic are questioned with regard to the genuine bases dwelled on the main book of Christian religion. The Bible is mentioned as a source of creed in the novel, whereas it should be the main source of knowledge on God and similar issues:

His understanding had received a particular direction… His constructions of the text were hasty, and formed on a narrow scale. Everything was viewed in a disconnected position. One action and one precept were not employed to illustrate and restrict the meaning of another (Brown, p. 8).

All these misconceptions were established by the father of Clara and Theodore. After their father’s death, Theodore implemented the ideas of his parent through his personal beliefs. In other words, Theodore was devoted to the ideas of his father to the extent that his mind let him down which resulted in his hearing the voices and other terrifying things.

Clara as the main narrator of the novel claims that “the limits of his acquirements consisted in signing his name, and spelling out a chapter in the Bible” (Brown, p. 227). Theodore can be considered the lost soul that cannot find the way back home and is deceived by evil voices. The voices heard by Theodore can be also interpreted as doubts that exist in the mind of every person. The doubts experienced by Theodore Wieland were unbearable and his morbid imagination has suggested him a certain way that went against his moral values and religious principles. “Where one discovered only confirmations of his faith, the other could find nothing but reasons for doubt” (Brown, p. 23). In this respect, Theodore creates some voices and assigns those to the Deity due to his mental health problems for I can not believe that a true believer can commit such cruel crimes in the name of god. On the contrary, we can revise the history of Crusades.

When Carwin confesses that he was responsible for the voice that was overheard and that he practices ventriloquism, the readers are likely to give a sigh of relief and tell that they suspected that there were no voices. However, the voices heard by Theodore happen not to be produced by Carwin. In this respect, it is necessary to search for another reasonable explanation of voices except for ventriloquism, Deity voices, or mental diseases. Excluding all these variants, it is impossible to find nothing more reasonable than a well-planned manslaughter.

The way of life of Wieland and his father depict how theme of madness can be explored in a given literacy work. Other scholars view the tale as a Faustian theme or American conception of Faust. The story also brings out the interpretation of ideas without justification and how this could wreck havoc in our societies. The novel ends without giving answers to a number of issues and this is viewed by readers as the author’s notion that human beings do not always know the truth, at least by some degree of certainty. Due to Brown’s work on this novel, he has been criticized for lack of skills in literature writing. It was only till recently that these critical appraisals have been withdrawn following the idea that it was a deliberate strategy used by the author. In addition, since the book was based on narration of a confused character, it is upon the reader of the novel to see that this confusion is brought by the narrator and not by Brown himself.

Conclusion

The Wieland gives the readers a great opportunity to interpret the concepts regarded in the novel with regard to their life perception and certain knowledge on the environment they live in. The novel therefore stands as an example of challenges human beings face in their efforts to have a broader understanding of natural surrounding and how over-emphasis on the search for answers that are hard to come may lead to disastrous consequences. The combination of wealth and religion, moral values and the degree of commitment can be approached while reading this piece of literature. As you can see, the author managed to question religious issues without denying the existence of God. The goal was reached with the help of exaggerating the importance of following the religious matters blindly due to the implicit faith. It is necessary to restate that the role of background for religious commitment is emphasized in the novel as well as the family principles and values.

Works Cited

Brown, Charles Brockden. Wieland. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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