Poe explores the imagery of doubles in “William Wilson.” William Wilson loses his personal identity when he discovers a classmate who shares not only his full name but also his physical appearance and manner of speaking. Poe stresses the external aspects of their similarity less than the narrator’s mental turmoil, which is triggered by his encounter with his rivalrous double. When the narrator attempts to murder his double in the story’s final moments, he ironically causes his own death. This action demonstrates the bond of dependence between the hated double and the loved self. The -murder-suicide confirms the double as the narrator’s alter ego. In other words, the narrator’s double exists not as an external character but rather as part of the narrator’s imagination. Poe uses the idea of the double to question the narrator’s grasp on reality. The -murder-suicide implies that the narrator has imagined the existence of his rival because he suffers from paranoia, a mental state in which the human mind suspects itself to be threatened by external forces that are just imaginary figments of irs own creation.
More characters from Poe’s Short Stories