Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist (A Fragment)
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Memoirs of Carwin, the Biloquist begins with Carwin as a young boy, about 14 years old, living on a farm with his father and brother in Pennsylvania. Carwin is evidently different from his family in that he strives to have an education, especially through means of reading books. His father does nothing but discourages this desire, and expects Carwin to settle for a simple life on the farm. As a way to break away from his father’s repression, Carwin continuously sneaks out into the woods at night with books to read by the moonlight. It is on one of these experiences that Carwin hears the echo of his own voice in the valley, giving him the inspiration to learn how to manipulate his voice. After several nights of practice, Carwin has the “power to impersonate” different people.
Soon after, Carwin learns of an aunt in Philadelphia that wants to promote his further education, but his father refuses to send him. As an attempt to convince his father, Carwin decides to sneak into his bedroom late at night, impersonate the voice of his dead mother, and have her tell his father to let Carwin go to Philadelphia. This is the first scenario in which Carwin wants to use his voice talents to benefit himself, but before he can execute this plan, a barn on the farm starts on fire, disrupting his father’s sleep. After this event, the father decides to give Carwin permission to stay with his aunt.
In Philadelphia, Carwin receives a good education, but has to deal with hard times after the death of his aunt. He is left alone, because his aunt left everything in her possession to a faithful servant. For a second time, Carwin decides to use his ventriloquism, this time to imitate the voice of his dead aunt as a way to convince the servant that he is the rightful heir. Again, however, he fails to carry out his plan. At this time, a mysterious upper-class man named Ludloe decides to take Carwin under his wing. Carwin begins to idolize Ludloe for his way of life and his supreme education. Ludloe invites Carwin to travel to Europe with him, and Carwin, having nowhere else to go, willingly agrees. Throughout this relationship, Carwin never confides his biloquial abilities to Ludloe. Mysteriously enough, Carwin discovers that Ludloe is a member in a secret society, and immediately his curiosity is piqued. Carwin wants to be trusted with information about the society, but Ludloe always keeps him at a distance. Ludloe agrees that in time, Carwin might be able to be let into the society, but in the meantime sends Carwin all over Europe to increase his education. Additionally, Ludloe suggests marriage for Carwin as a step closer to his entrance into Ludloe’s secret society. Mrs. Benington, a recent widow, is the suggested wife for Carwin, because with marriage he would acquire all her land and property. After this, Ludloe claims that he will start to talk to Carwin about the secret society.
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