Wieland Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1798

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Gothic

Time of work: Eighteenth century

Locale: Pennsylvania

Characters DiscussedMr. Wieland

Mr. WielandWieland, a religious fanatic. He fears a dreadful punishment because he has not answered a “call” to become a missionary. He dies by what seems to be spontaneous combustion: His clothes suddenly burst into flames one night as he meditates. He is Clara and young Wieland’s father.

Clara Wieland

Clara Wieland, the narrator, who writes a long letter telling of the tragedy that is visited upon her family. She is attracted to Carwin, but when he defames her character to drive off a rival suitor, her love ends. Eventually, she marries Henry Pleyel, the brother of her childhood friend.

Mrs. Wieland

Mrs. Wieland, Clara’s mother. She dies shortly after her husband, leaving Clara and young Wieland to be reared by an aunt.


Wieland, Clara’s brother. He, Clara, and his wife, Catharine, live together as friends. He is a somber, melancholy man of a religious turn. When he hears strange voices, he believes he is in communication with some supernatural power. Thinking he is guided by heaven, he sacrifices his wife and their children. Regaining his sanity later and crushed by remorse, he commits suicide by stabbing himself.

Catharine Pleyel

Catharine Pleyel, a childhood friend of the Wielands. She marries Wieland and has four children by him. She is killed, along with their children, by her husband, while he is in a fit of madness.

Henry Pleyel

Henry Pleyel, Catharine’s brother, a lively young man. Eventually, he and Clara marry, after the death of his first wife, a European baroness.


Carwin, a stranger who appears dressed like a humorous beggar. He loves Clara but defames her to Henry, out of jealousy. He is accused by Clara of being the “voice” that guided Wieland to kill, because he is a ventriloquist. He assures Clara of his innocence and disappears from the area to become a farmer.

BibliographyJones, Howard Mumford. Belief and Disbelief in American Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967. Discusses the religious ideologies characterizing American thought from the colonial era to the twentieth century. Cites specific writers. Explains eighteenth century rationalism and its coexistence with Calvinistic guilt.MacAndrew, Elizabeth. The Gothic Tradition in Fiction. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979. Maintains that from the inception of the gothic novel, authors consciously employed symbolic elements and sought to educate their readers in the workings of the mind. Claims that the infusion of psychology into literature derived from the interest generated by the studies of eighteenth century thinker John Locke.Punter, David. The Literature of Terror. New York: Longman, 1980. Treats the relationship between the eighteenth century novel and the philosophy of rationalism. The chapter on early American Gothic fiction discusses Brown’s contribution regarding the effects of heredity and Puritanism on one’s psychological composition.Ringe, Donald A. American Gothic: Imagination and Reason in Nineteenth Century Fiction. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1982. Recounts the characteristics of Gothic fiction, and discusses the psychological and moral insight Brown brings to his writing.Thompson, G. R., ed. The Gothic Imagination: Essays in Dark Romanticism. Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1974. Argues that gothic literature is directly descended from the Gothic architecture of the Middle Ages. A chapter on religious terror in the gothic novel offers enlightenment regarding Wieland’s perception of grace.
Categories: Characters