Gothicism Embedded in Religion: Comparing Jonathan Edwards to American Gothic Authors: Compares Jonathan Edwards, Charles Brockden Brown's "Weiland", and Edgar Allan Poe

Essay by HawthornesPupilCollege, UndergraduateA, December 2006

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In 18th century America, religious faith was the most important aspect of life. It was a time period where society revolved around prayer and ideas of salvation, thoughts of purity and becoming close to God; it was a time of great excitement, of Great Awakenings and the conversion of many souls to Christianity. But it was also a horrific time period, where and anyone who wasn't devoted to God was considered a dissenter and a heretic, and as a result suffered repercussions that had an elements of dark and sinister gothicism. Though some of the ideas involved in the gothic could be considered blasphemous when scrutinized under a religious perspective, the gothic and religion are allied in an eerie manner that closely intertwines the divine with the sinister. The sermons and personal narratives of America's most famous theologian, Jonathan Edwards, are evidence of the level of extreme religious fanaticism of the time period and induced more horror than instilled divine worship.

The terror inflicted by Edwards (and by others like him) created an emotional upheaval in society; people began to doubt and fear God, and thus began to doubt social order as a whole. Societal and religious restrictions allowed little ability to express the uncertainties they created, and in attempt to understand the darkness that was embedded in religion, gothic literature was born. Through comparing the works of Jonathan Edwards to the gothic novel Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown, and to the later short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, it is clear that religion is not only dense with gothic ideology and binaries, but also that societal expectations of 18th and 19th century America, mixed with the terrors embedded in religion, created the gothic in attempt to express and purge suppressed religious fears and societal flaws.

Though Wieland is recognized...