Charlotte Temple

Democracy's Threat to Colonial Establishment

The advent of democracy in America brought with it a slue of worries and concerns held by the newly independent colonists. Some felt like the lost, orphaned children of Great Britain while others pondered the uncertain future of the new nation. One of the gravest concerns was the novel threat democracy brought to civic order. Charles Brockden Brown, who authored Wieland, and Susanna Rowson, who penned Charlotte Temple, were both gravely distressed by rhetoric and persuasion, and how they might ultimately lead to deception. Brown employed a Gothic approach to explore how irrational forces could lead to fraud, while Rawson used sentimentality to explore how human feeling could create this same problem. They both used a female protagonist to embellish this weakness, as women were perceived to be the societal “weak link” of the new republic.

The 1790s was an age of passion. As more and more Americans became aware of their own inability to live up to the high expectations of the 1770s and 1780s, there evolved a distinct desire to rebuild and buttress the fragile social order. In Brown’s,Wieland, the fragility of the family — as well as its vulnerability to deception — was brought to life by the story of an agrarian family whose...

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