His form was ungainly and disproportioned. Shoulders broad and square, breast sunken, his head drooping, his body of uniform breadth, supported by long and lank legs, were the ingredients of his frame.
His garb was not ill adapted to such a figure. A slouched hat, tarnished by the weather, a coat of thick gray cloth, cut and wrought, as it seemed, by a country tailor, blue worsted stockings, and shoes fastened by thongs, and deeply discoloured by dust, which brush had never disturbed, constituted his dress. And yet his forehead, so far as shaggy locks would allow it to be seen, his eyes lustrously black, and possessing, in the midst of haggardness, a radiance inexpressibly serene and potent, and something in the rest of his features, which it would be in vain to describe, but which served to betoken a mind of the highest order, were essential ingredients in the portrait.
His very oxymoronic physical appearance undermines the ideologies that prescribe social identities in the word of the novel. Just looking at this deformed vagabond and hearing him speak gives her ideas about the possible reformation of the established socio-economic structure. The momentary nature of this vision of social utopia, however, shows how much Clara has made the gender role allotted to her by the patriarchal society of Mettingen part of her individual identity.
Under pressure to conform, Clara reverts to the performance of domestic duties to take her mind off Carwin and the visions his presence induce. Clara reverts to this prescribed role to deny Carwin, whose power has already effected a momentary change in the way she views herself and her position within society. While she seems independent at first, she occupies her own house only at the discretion of Theodore who owns the property and who occupies the paternal mansion.
In fact, her transparent portrait of Catherine makes visible the androcentric point of view adopted by all members of the Wieland community. In these socially prescribed female roles, Clara illustrates to what extent she has adopted as natural the ideology of gender polarization that through the institutions of marriage, property and primogeniture structure Mettingen.
This interfamilial exchange of wives between Theodore and Pleyel is the perfect homosocial move to ensure both their family lineage and fortune. This last phrase shows how much both she and her family are formed by world view that defines the world according to binary oppositions.
They cannot accept an open verdict on his social identity and past but need to position him either on the right side or the wrong side of the laws that validate their lifestyle and social relations. The most incomprehensible and formidable among men; as engaged in schemes, reasonably suspected to be, in the highest degree, criminal, but such as no human intelligence is able to unravel: that his ends are pursued by means which leave it in doubt whether he be not in league with some infernal spirit: that his crimes have hitherto been perpetrated with the aid of some unknown but desperate accomplices: that he wages perpetual war against the happiness of mankind, and sets his engines of destruction at work against every object that presents itself.
In a world ruled by rationalist creeds, any individual pertaining to know more than the law allows becomes a threat to its integrity and must be repressed.
Carwin occupies this abjected position. It is Pleyel who Carwin knows best and who immediately condemns Clara, and not Carwin, for her supposed liaisons with the mysterious stranger. By now hysterical, Pleyel becomes the stalker of Clara and Carwin. As Samuels explains,. Samuels Carwin uses his powers to play at once the role of adversary and saviour, allowing Clara to find her own independent desire, loose from the shackles of social custom which would have seen her safely married off to Pleyel.
This suggests that his intention was to free Clara from perceiving herself through an androcentric lens by appealing to her inner most desires. He held them in abhorrence, not only of instruments of misery to others, but to him on whom they were conferred.
Besides, riches were comparative, and was he not rich already? It is the pressure that the more dominant Pleyel exerts on Wieland to conform to the expectations laid on him by an increasingly liberal-capitalist society that leads Theodore to increasingly rely on that other source of tyrannical masculine authority: an omnipotent deity. His obsession with extreme authoritarianism and his Manichean outlook on good and evil leads him towards a grotesque gnosis that turns him into the ultimate despotic Lord of the Land.
Brown introduced into the world of the Wielands and Pleyels his mercurial figure Carwin, who refuses to perform the prescribed roles available to men and women, and who willing adopts male and female voices and social positions, so as to unveil the artificiality of the hegemonic patriarchal order. He is only partly right. Their return is a return to the past, geographically as well as ideologically. He is the only one who remains in Pennsylvania after the fall of the house of Wieland. Wieland contains a utopian vision of the future since Carwin has managed to purify Pennsylvania from the old-world ideologies that still structured the society that inhabited the region, and in doing so has re-established the utopian potential of the geographical space.
Leiden University, the Netherlands.
Bacon, Francis. Essays and New Atlantis.
New York: Walter J. Black, Brown, Charles Brockden. Wieland and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist. Christopherson, Bill. Athens: U of Georgia P, Cogliano, Francis D. Revolutionary America, London: Routledge, Davidson, Cathy N. This block will remain in place until legal guidance changes.
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