Friday, November 6, 2009

Poe Fridays: William Wilson

This week's Poe Fridays short story is William Wilson. You can read it here. All I knew going into this story was that it was a doppelgänger story.

The narrator is a man who has lived a vice-filled life. He wants to tell us his story and he uses the pseudonym William Wilson because his real name is now well-known and linked to his notorious reputation. He takes us back to his childhood when he used his dominant personality to get just about anything he wanted. When he went to boarding school, he quickly became a leader. His only challenge was another boy with the same build, the same birthday and coincidentally, the same name. This other William Wilson and our narrator always had an antagonistic and yet friendly relationship. The "other" would sometimes try to steer our narrator toward better behaviors but our William just ignored the advice and eventually came to hate the other boy. As he left this small school and went on to Eton and Oxford and then out into the world, the doppelgänger would always show up to foil his dishonest or lascivious plans. By this point, William's hatred escalates into fury and provokes a desperate act to end the story.

I'm sure it's no small thing that Poe used his own birth date in this story. He also uses his own experiences as a youth in England for the setting. Though Poe counted this as one of his best, I had a bit of trouble with the language in the story. It was difficult to follow the story in some places. Still, it was amusing to read about William's anger at finding someone that shared his name. I am one of those people that constantly gets mistaken for someone else and it drives me crazy -- although, not so crazy that I would kill anyone.

Next week's short story will be The Oblong Box. If you have any requests for stories in our last two months, let me know. We are quickly approaching Poe's birthday again, if you can believe it!

Wondering if anyone is really unique,


  1. Before I could make a recommendation, I went back through to inventory what you'd already done. No "Purloined Letter"? Give that one a shot - it's a bit easier than "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." If not, try "The Business-Man" or "X-ing a Paragrab" for some good Poe humor.

    By the way, "The Forest Reverie" is not a Poe poem, which is why it's not in your collected works. Not sure where people on the internet come up with this stuff.

  2. Rob - I will definitely schedule "The Purloined Letter" and some more humor.

    Thanks for the info on The Forest Reverie. No wonder it seemed so different from his other poems!