The narrator of the story, Clara is the sister of Theodore Wieland. She received a secular education and is not especially religious; however, she does vacillate between rational and supernatural explanations for the strange events that befall her family. She is also prone to obsessiveness, extremities of emotion, and irrationality, despite her claims to the contrary. She is often viewed as an unreliable narrator.
The brother of Clara, husband of Catharine, and father of four children, Wieland inherits his father's property and takes up the profession of agriculture. Like his father, he is melancholy, reserved, and prone to religious fanaticism. However, he tempers his religiosity with the study of science, literature, and his particular favorite, Cicero. He is extremely desirous of intimately communing with God and being used as an instrument of His will.
Obscure, intelligent, and seductive, Carwin becomes a fixture in the Wieland household. He was an Englishman but spent his time traveling in Spain; he learned the Spanish language, studied Spanish customs and traditions, and converted to Roman Catholicism. His manners and intellect do not correspond with his garb, which is rustic. This disparity and other mysteries of his past make him a compelling figure for the Wielands, who cannot decide whether he is evil or good. Carwin possesses the rare talent of ventriloquism, and his application of this talent precipitates the downfall of the Wielands.
The Elder Wieland
The father of Theodore and Clara, the elder Wieland was an intensely religious man. The manner of his death is unexplained and took place under mysterious circumstances; it appeared to be spontaneous combustion or some other human cause but both Wieland children seemed to adhere to a supernatural explanation. The elder Wieland’s death is continuously alluded to throughout the novel as a source of confusion and rumination for his children.
Catharine is the wife of Theodore Wieland, sister to Henry, and closest friend of Clara. She is sweet, even-tempered, and lovely; she is the perfect example of what an 18th century mother should be. As a character, however, she is only very thinly developed and does not exist as anything more than an tableau for other characters to act upon or project their feelings.
Henry is the brother of Catharine and close friend of the Wieland siblings. He spent his youth abroad and returned to work on a farm near Philadelphia. Educated and rational, he is not prone to the same faulty beliefs in the supernatural and eschews religion.
The young ward of the Wieland family and the daughter of Major Stuart.
A family friend who resides in Philadelphia. Her house is a frequent point of visitation for the main characters, although her presence is very minor.
Theresa, The Baroness de Stolberg
Pleyel’s former love who lived in Europe. He hears a mysterious voice informing him of her death, which turns out to be incorrect. Pleyel marries her near the end of the novel but she dies shortly after in childbirth.
Louisa Conway's father, who discovers his long-lost daughter early in the novel. Stuart married Louisa's mother, but she took Louisa and vanished one day when he was out on a military excursion. Stuart had a rivalry with Maxwell, an aid de camp to a marquis.
An aid de camp of the Marquis of Granby, Maxwell is a hedonistic and deceitful man who has a rivalry with Major Stuart. Maxwell plots to seduce Stuart's wife to revenge himself against Stuart.
Clara and Theodore's maternal uncle, a surgeon who appears after Wieland's crimes have been committed. He is rational and respects Clara, but warns her to stay away from her brother.
A distant kinsman of Clara and Theodore's mother. Mr. Hallet is the town's respected magistrate. He tells Clara that her brother has murdered his children.
Clara Wieland's maidservant. Judith enters into an affair with Carwin and thus gives him access to Clara's home.
Wieland Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Wieland is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.