Edgar Huntly: Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker

Sleep Walking Through Life: Edgar Huntly’s Unreality College

In Charles Brockden Brown’s novel, Edgar Huntly or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker (1799), many characters have problems with interpreting their own ideas of reality and of what is actually real within the context of the novel. Edgar Huntly’s often-inaccurate perception of reality causes many of the key events in the novel to occur. There are several instances of these fallacies throughout the novel, including the assumption that Clithero is Waldegrave’s murderer, that the Native Americans killed Huntly's uncle and sisters, and that Clithero is innocent of any malicious intent towards Sarsefield and his wife. Brown situates his protagonist as well as other characters within this confused concept of reality in order to illustrate how humanity’s perception of itself and one man’s ideas about one another are often subjective and flawed, by no means universal truths.

Edgar’s unreliability as a narrator is in no way accidental. Readers often begin a story with complete trust in the narrator until the narrator proves this trust unwarranted. Such is the case with Edgar: though he does not seem to have malicious intentions, he often perceives things to be true that are not. As the reader does get insight into his mind and thought process,...

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