Consider the Source

As the narrator of Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland, Clara is unreliable. The fantastic events she recounts are unbelievable and unexplained, leading readers to question the validity of her tale. For example, she introduces the theory of empiricism, which claims that all humans are born with a blank slate, completely dependent upon their senses for the knowledge they attain. However, Clara reveals the altered state of her own senses, leading readers to doubt her credibility as a narrator. Through this theory, Clara is exposed as an untrustworthy source for the novel, indicating that the events that she narrates are false.

Clara introduces the theory of empiricism early in the story. She states, "the will is the tool of the understanding, which must fashion its conclusions on the notices of sense" (39). Thus, human beings are born with a blank slate, and all knowledge attained since birth is gained through their senses. However, she admits that "if the senses be depraved, it is impossible to calculate the evils that may flow from the consequent deductions of the understanding" (39). Through this theory we can infer that, if Clara's senses have been impaired through her emotional trauma, then her...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 725 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4211 literature essays, 1403 sample college application essays, 171 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in