Poe's Short Stories

Doppelgängers Revealing Personal Duality

A recurring plot point in Edgar Allan Poe’s short horror stories, doppelgängers allow Poe to delve deep into characters’ consciences, enabling the reader to grasp the contrasting duality of human nature. This theme appears in Poe’s “William Wilson” providing suspense and thrilling plot twists for a memorable ending.

A popular literary technique, doppelgängers appear most often in Gothic literature. Based on a compound German word, “doppelgänger” can be literally translated to mean “double-goer.” A fitting translation, “double-goer” properly describes the character to which a doppelgänger refers. Defined as either “a ghostly counterpart of a living person” or a “double, alter ego, a person who has the same name as another,” doppelgängers basically describe extremely similar characters who have a very strong personal connection, whether they are related, or just happen to share the same name (“doppelganger”).

In Poe’s short story, “William Wilson,” the narrator, who calls himself William Wilson, meets his namesake, when another William Wilson arrives at Dr. Bransby’s Academy. Immediately, his doppelgänger affects Wilson’s mental wellbeing. Wilson’s doppelgänger follows him throughout the world, foiling his attempts at trickery....

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