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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.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Poe’s Short Stories!