Memoirs of a Sleepwalker

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The book is set in the immediate aftermath of the post-revolutionary war (1787). The reader will learn a lot from the first few lines of Edgar Huntley. For example, the reader gets a sense of the story's dramatic tone as well as its vivid and dense writing. As seen in the first six pages, the rest of the book is highly emotional and action-packed. It is impossible to say the novel's concepts from time to time as if Brown was more interested in surprising the reader by expanding them as the novel progresses. The first six the first six chapters of the novel reveal various themes such as sleepwalking, gender and class tensions as well as fear of the others.

Regarding classifications, the novel can be placed under the American Gothic tradition as the features, tradition and the conversations used are of the Gothic literary tradition. However, Brown in his introductory letter states that he does not need to use superstition and exploded manner to achieve the Gothic effect. He, therefore, proceeds to use the peril of western wilderness as well as American effects based on the American Indian conflicts. As much as the Gothic traditions originated In Europe, Brown places himself in the settings of a traditional literary that is progressive and have no basis on the European forms (Brown, 90).

A fascinating character in the literature is Edgar; He writes a long letter to his fiancée describing the events in his life that he encountered. However, what Edgar reveals in his letter is just a tip of the iceberg as most of his real self is underneath the surface. This change when he begins sleepwalking and looks like the unfortunate Clitheroe as he becomes something else, characterized by primal and unconscious urges that such as violence and unpredictable ways. Initially, Edgar is presented as a young and sensitive person with morals. He is seen as a Quaker from the way he addressed Mary with terms such as “thee” and “Though.” He has a strict moral code that he is seen to adhere to that makes him a better than that he is portrayed in the last half of the novel where he shows sympathy to many characters in the novel. The Elm in the novel is seen both a symbol of the tension between the Indians and the white settlers as well as the symbol of peace in the treaty (Newman, 322).

Clithero is a fascinating creature in the novel, and being an Irish immigrant, he is displayed as the “others.” During this period (Post revolutionary war) there were quite some prejudices including xenophobia; that is the fear that the new arrivals threatened subversion. The then president, John Adams confirmed this fear by implementing the alien and sedition acts which barred immigrants from getting citizens through the incarceration of immigrants with little or no due process. In 1790, Pennsylvania was filled with paranoia and anxiety caused by the fear of a counterrevolutionary. Brown used Clitheroe to express this concern because he was feared among the Quack community.

Patriarchy is also a significant theme in this novel and is displayed in Clithero story. Edgar was also noted to make some remarks that displayed the patriarchy in the society. Edgar made these remarks when he was discussing Solebury, his town “our scheme was, for the most part, a patriarchal one” According to Barnard and Shapiro, Brown's emphasis laid on the structure of the society, norms, paternalistic and patriarch in the revolutionary period (Brown, 90).

Throughout the narrative, there is a strong reference to the father and paternal authority a good example being Mrs. Lorimer whose first husband was cruel and made use of the gender structure and the feudal system that gave him complete power and ownership of his wife as well as her fortune. She is also forcefully marriage and not on account of love but greed and title. She finally stood up for herself and refused to negotiate on behalf of Arthur. Her actions were bold especially when she was able to reconcile Clithero and Clarice by looking past their difference in class.

As the story progresses, more adventure sets in most of which revolve around Clithero and if characterized by wild intentions, murder, and death. He disappeared into the thickest of the wilderness of Norwalk to try and find himself as he is filled with guilt for the things he has done. He is forced to deal with bad weathers a panther and the unknown. The life that Clithero goes thought is horrible. The readers find it pitiful and sympathize with his story and situation. This takes a turn for the worst when he finally thinks things are at their best. At some point he was able o rationalize the killings of Mrs. Lorimer, As much as that was extreme, Clithero life can still be summed up as incredible and complex due to his notable character.

There are other instances in the novel that fills the readers with doubt due to some unique and unexpected elements. For instance, he admitted that he had gone insane for a while after the reappearance of Arthur, “such was the beginning of a series ordained to hurry me to swift destruction. Such was the primary tokens of the presence of that power by whose accursed machinations I was destined to fall” ( Brwon, 49). Later after he killed Arthur, he falls into a sleep walking state and says “I was fettered, confounded, smitten with an excess of thought, and lay prostrate with wonder!" (Brown, 52). He also attempts to kill his patroness and claims to have no knowledge of the transition; he also states that he fell in a stupor that he had no control over. When Clithero goes back to the wilderness, Edgar stalks him and notes that indeed Clithero was not in his mind. As the novel goes further sleepwalking becomes clearer regarding the meaning and tends to display the lack of total knowledge of actions. From the novel, clithero displays the lack of self-knowledge that is evident in his lack of physical knowledge. It can be deduced that he suffers from the psychic break down to the fact that he does not know where to fit in the society as well as his responsibilities to both Mrs. Lorimer and the society and these lead him to sleepwalk.

There is a great significance that has been placed in the sleep walking of Clithero and Edgar. His actions seem to be without conscience or reason especially the murder of Arthur. Waite is accidentally killed by Clithero after he had wished he was dead. Clithero accuses Wiatte of cutting him off from Mrs. Lorimer and Clarice. He also goes further to bury the documents that favor Arthur, while sleepwalking. This indicates how deep rooted his love for Mrs. Lorimer was and how much he had tried to suppress these feelings (Newman, 322).

With time, Edgar begins to grow as chaotic as Clithero in more ways than one. For instance, he begins by following his footsteps by retracing what Clithero had done. He goes further to copy is obsessions and behaviors. At the begging of the novel, Edgar was a Quaker with morals and code, but as the novel progresses he comes to term with the contradiction that he has in his identity and destiny. He plays two roles in this case; he is the victim and the perpetrator, a hunter and a hunted. The Indians attacked him, and he now attacks back. All this brings out the conflict that drives him to sleepwalk as well. Waldgrave’s death was similar to that of Edgar’s parents. These similarities are noticeable as v was a father figure. Edgar blames himself for chasing giving up on the pursuit of his father’s killer and chases Clithero into the wilderness (Ogden, 419).

The last chapters of the novel get more and more interesting as the adventure increase, and so does the violence and the mental perturbation. Earlier on, the main theme of the story was redemption. However, during the last chapters, things change drastically. Weymouth's fist brings Edgar terrible new that makes him sympathetic to him. He states that he did not have any income that could help him support Mary and only dependent on the inheritance from Waldgrave. This is received as a small tragedy to Edgar. Weymouth only appears ones in this chapter as there is no previous mention of him or further discussion on his whereabouts.

Regarding gender, the women in this novel are oppressed by their men and undermined. Any progress they make is destroyed by the men in the end. Mrs. Lorimer, for instance, was forced by her parents and siblings to Mary, a brute man who she wasn’t in love with. Patriarchal is also seen throughout the novel particularly with Edgar when Mary acquired inheritance, Edgar, insists that it should be under his control in the Weymouth incident (Ogden, 419).

As the novel nears the end, the focus shifts from Clithero to Edgar as there are fewer incidences on Clithero and the focus seems to be on Edgar’s progress. Edgar eventually found himself in Clithero cave with no Quaker values. He feels the need to let out the animal and him and be a savage in some form of survival mechanism

The reader can concentrate on the contrast between the early life of Edgar that was characterized by a code of conduct that he adhered to, to the dive into the dark side. In the end, it can be noted that Edgar is the one who is murdering Indians but goes ahead and calls them savages.


Brown, Charles Brockden. Edgar Huntly, or, memoirs of a sleep-walker. Vol. 4. Kent State University Press, 1987.

Newman, Andrew. "" Light might possibly be requisite": Edgar Huntly, Regional History, and Historicist Criticism." Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 8.2 (2010): 322-357.

Ogden, Emily. "Edgar Huntly and the Regulation of the Senses." American Literature 85.3 (2013): 419-445.

November 03, 2022

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