The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Wieland: Or, The Transformation is the terror story of Clara Wieland (the narrator) and her brother, Theodore (the Wieland of the title). They are the only children of a German-born religious fanatic and missionary who foretold his death (by spontaneous combustion) for supposed lax service to God. Clara and Theodore become orphans at the ages of seven and ten years, respectively. Reared by a maiden aunt under “enlightened” principles and in circumstances of affluence, Clara and Theodore grow up with Catherine and Henry Pleyel. These four young people are caught in the crosscurrents of eighteenth century thought.

Theodore, who decides to pursue agriculture as his occupation, marries Catherine, and they become the parents of four children. Clara secretly nourishes affection for Henry, who is engaged to German baroness Theresa von Stolberg. A stranger named Frances Carwin, an escaped convict from Ireland who has eyes and a voice suggesting powers of witchcraft and who has a talent for impersonation, joins the Wieland and Pleyel circle.

Seven times in the course of the narration, a mysterious voice is heard, under varying and increasingly mystifying circumstances. Theodore is certain of the supernatural origin of the voice. Clara thinks that the voice is supernatural but not malevolent. Henry, who is told of the death of his sweetheart in one of the statements of the voice, prefers a rationalistic inquiry.

After witnessing...

(The entire section is 413 words.)