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[edit] Volume 1

Volume 1 is rich and full of different types of genre. Specifically, the genres of mystery and the gothic appear to be the major ones at play, and they intersect at times. There is also the minor genre of romance, and it can be seen as intersecting with the gothic genre as well. The novel's underlying tragic elements also appear within the first volume, setting the stage for the revelations of Volume 3.


The mystery genre is most prevalent surrounding the character of Wacousta, as well as the happenstance that occurs with the stranger in the night and the murder.

There is plenty of mystery surrounding the character of Wacousta as well as his identity. For example, “A cry of savage rage and disappointment burst from the lips of the warrior;... he bounded and leapt like a deer of the forest whence he came” (152). Wacousta is described like no other entity within the text, and the inhumane language Richardson chooses to use provides a mysterious aura to his character.

Upon the breaching of the fort from the stranger, the mystery genre is immediately entertained by Richardson with quotations such as, “Good Heaven, is it possible?... How could he contrive to enter a place so vigilantly guarded?” (22). Many mysteries arise during this portion of the text, and Richardson leaves the reader with many questions in mind.


"'Hard-hearted man! ... if my prayers of gratitude to Heaven give offence, may the hour never come when my lips shall pronounce their bitterest curse upon your severity!'" (Richardson 43).

The gothic genre is introduced during chapter two with the intruder in the night, and it progresses throughout with the first mysterious death in the story.

Richardson intelligently creates scenes that portray a dark, fearful, and gloomy suspense. For example, “Again a death-like silence ensued...the dark shadow of the broad belt of forest threw all that part of the waste which came within its immediate range into impenetrable obscurity” (29). This scene portrays the way Richardson creates dark imagery beyond the walls of the fort, and he is able to capture elements of suspense and fear within the characters.

The gothic genre progresses as Richardson uses horrific language to describe the body of what appeared to be a dead be Charles de Haldimar, “... a flush of the deepest dye, while his eyes, swollen by the tide of blood now rushing violently to his face, appeared to be bursting from their sockets” (54). The aspect of death alone within a novel can validate it as embodying the gothic genre, but Richardson goes beyond with his descriptions to make it as horrific as possible.


While we will later discuss Wacousta functioning as the novel’s counter-revenger, there is another main character involved in the depiction of tragedy in the novel who demonstrates hamartia, otherwise known as a ‘tragic flaw’ or moment of misjudgement: Colonel de Haldimar. His hamartia can be understood as his rush in executing Frank Halloway, who, despite the Colonel’s adamant belief of his guilt, turns out to be innocent of virtually all accused charges. At Halloway’s trial, it is clear to most of the court – as well as the reader – that the imprisoned Frank is an honest man; he speaks clearly and directly as he shares his testimony, exhibiting both humility as a lowly private-turned-prisoner as well as revealing his origins as a gentleman (85), all of which help him establish credibility and the appearance of honesty. While the court is described as “[listening to Frank’s testimony] with the most profound and absorbing interest” (88), Colonel de Haldimar continuously interrupts him and tries to discredit his story before he can even finish it, first by interrupting the touching story of Frank saving the Colonel’s son’s life to insinuate treachery (87), then by arguing that hearing Halloway’s life story is unnecessary and irrelevant to the trial (89), a remark likely made due to the compassion Halloway’s testimony was creating within the court. These decisions to try and sabotage Halloway and willfully ignore the evidence supporting his innocence all lead up to the deliverance of the guilty verdict, firmly setting in motion De Haldimar’s final and most crucial misjudgement: allowing Halloway to be executed.

It is by calling for Halloway’s speedy execution that De Haldimar exhibits hamartia; not only does he convict and kill an innocent man, but he also activates Ellen Halloway’s prophecy, which curses the remainder of the novel’s sequence of events. It is as a direct result from executing her husband that Ellen proclaims:

“if there be a God of justice and of truth, he will avenge this devilish deed”, and that De Haldimar will “seen perish before [his] eyes all [he loves] on earth, without mercy and without hope [such as she has]” (164).

Thus, De Haldimar becomes a crucial tragic figure, as he is the one who incites the curse that manifests itself in the form of Wacousta’s revenge. While the Colonel himself does not die as a result of his hamartia, his children and many of his fellow soldiers are killed, thus serving as a type of tragic downfall befitting of the tragedy.

Intersection of Mystery and Gothic Genres:

The gothic mystery becomes most apparent regarding the settlers' fear of the forest.

There are many quotations which highlight the settlers' fears of the unknown dark woods. For example, “... the obscurity that reigned around” (23). This description is very significant, obscurity demonstrates the fact that the forest is unknown and difficult for the settlers to understand, and reigned speaks to how dominant the forest and its qualities are against them. Not to mention Wacousta appears and disappears from the forest as well.

Intersection of Gothic and Romantic Genres:

Gothic romance is played out through execution of Frank Halloway, as himself and his wife Ellen portray very high emotion regarding the destruction of their love. The intersection can also be seen while Valletort is under the impression that he has killed Frederick de Haldimar, the brother of the woman he has admired.

In regards to the execution of Halloway, his relationship with Ellen is destroyed. Both of their actions during his death embody an intersection of the gothic and romantic genres. As Ellen has fallen unconscious, Richardson writes, “...kissed the wan lips of his still unconscious wife, breathing, as he did so, a half murmured hope she might indeed be the corpse she appeared” (145). As Halloway is meeting his death, he wishes that Ellen would die with him, which is quite a powerful display of gothic romance.

[edit] Volume 2

Volume 2 is continued with very heavy gothic tones such as supernatural elements, gloomy imagery, and terror, all tied in with a little bit of romance.


Richardsons use of gothic tropes in Volume II is to intensify the horror that he portrays. One of these gothic elements is represented in this volume with distinctive supernatural components best symbolized by the curse/prophecy:

“The terrible pursuit of the fugitive, the execution of the soldier, the curse and prophecy of his maniac wife, and, above all, the forcible abduction and threatened espousal of that unhappy woman by the formidable being who seemed to have identified himself with the evils with which they stood menaced” (178).

The ongoing idea of this curse that Ellen Halloway entrenched within the characters in Volume I is tied with the gothic element of terror that lingers heavily in Volume II. The curse leaves characters always on edge, indicating the alienation that the settlers feel from the land they occupy. The Europeans have settled on the land of the Indigenous for better life, only to have possessed the land with chaos and curses. The recurring use of this gothic trope is to highlight the damage and destruction the settlers have radiated across the land of the Natives.

The objective of ‘death’ within Volume II also is used to signify the terror and events of turmoil that occurred upon the occupation of Indigenous land. When the Natives approached the camp of Captain de Haldimar, they can be described as:

“... sullen and revengeful, and more than one dark and gleaming eye did he encounter turned upon him, with an expression that seemed to say a separate torture should avenge the death of each of their fallen comrades” (276).

The use of imagery such as “dark and gleaming eye” and “avenge the death” is used to signify anger and a sense of chaos that is about to pursue. The Natives are described as aggressive and vengeful beings all throughout Volume II, which unintentionally enhances the concept of injustice that occurs towards them. Richardsons description of them in this way is to demonstrate the intimidation that he felt witnessing the retaliation of the Natives.


Even with the feeling of trepidation that ensues throughout the novel, Richardson still manages to incorporate scenes of romance within his text. After a massacre has taken place, Richardson describes the setting in a way that negates the incidents of terror and death by saying:

“And yet the sun shone in yellow lustre, and all Nature smiled, and wore an air of calm, as if the accursed deed had had the sanction of Heaven, and the spirits of light loved to look upon the frightful atrocities then in perpetration” (310).

This is significant to the Romantic era as in this scene, it is as if nature is fighting back against the Europeans. It is being represented in a way that is as spiritual as the Indigenous are, as they are known for appreciating the earth and the land they inhibit.

[edit] Volume 3

Volume 3 finishes the final characterization of combinations of mystery, gothic, romance, and tragedy all together.


The prophecy is still ongoing and has the curious wonderings if it will come true. We later find out at the end of the volume Ellen’s prophecy came true, the de Haldimar’s are cursed and dead, at the end it shows the British and Natives living in peace.


The gothic genre creates new challenges in a new setting for the characters as they must work through what new land presents to them through obstacles that would not much be prevalent in Europe. On 241, Haldimar is told to take off his shoes, stripping him away from his European culture and order that he knows. The fear that Haldimar has is that his feet will be hurt by the rough ground; in this sense, not only are the Canadians a threat to him but so is the land they have taken in force. This creates the gothic fear of the unknown and mistrust of what is going to happen next.


The core tragic plot is revealed in the third volume when Wacousta explains to Clara the reason for his relentless pursuit for revenge against her father, Colonel de Haldimar. Over the course of four chapters (seven to ten), Wacousta reveals the “monstrous truth” (516) of the Colonel’s betrayal, explaining the romantic history between himself and Clara’s mother – formerly Clara Beverly, who he describes passionately as “the being for whom [his] glowing heart had so long yearned” (500) – and how the Colonel stole her away from Wacousta while he was away at war.

It is through this revelation of past events that not only reveals Wacousta’s true identity, Reginald Morton, but also reveals Wacousta’s role as counter-revenger in the novel’s tragic plot. As he recounts his story, his motives for targeting the Colonel become clear: Wacousta is driven purely by a desire for revenge. He feels that he has been wronged by the Colonel, who, to him, has committed “damnable treachery” (517) for “[robbing him] of all that gave value to [his] life” (520). Despite the fact that it has been over twenty years since Wacousta was wronged by the Colonel (474), he is clearly still not over what happened; he is described several times throughout his retelling of the story as becoming “agitated with the most violent emotion … [and] animated with the fiercest and most appalling passions” (515). In this sense, Wacousta is revealed to be somewhat of a tragic hero, doggedly pursuing revenge against the man who wronged him. While he is able to eventually achieve this revenge by killing De Haldimar’s children, it also comes at the cost of his own life, thus another marker of the tragic plot: a conclusion of spectacular violence, death, and grief, in which the revenger’s hamartia – in this case, Wacousta’s relentless pursuit for revenge – is the ultimate cause of his downfall.

The intersection of Feminism and Gothic Genre:

The character Clara demonstrates the qualities of a female during this period through gothic characteristics. "Clara, my love," and she conducted the almost fainting girl to her seat"" (234). The most important detail here is "fainting girl." It is very common for women in gothic novels to faint and be depicted as weak, in need of love to cure her. Clara is close to fainting here, and then later on she "lost all command of her limbs" (181). This moment is stressful; however, it is very typical of gothic novels to have the women pass out in moments of high stress and have the male characters save the day.

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