william wilson

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need a summary and explinations of william wilson

-- Anonymous, February 28, 2001


Summary: William Wilson is the name given to the narrator of Poe's short story. William Wilson, a young student in a "prison-like" school, describes the school house and his experiences there with the typical haunting gloom of a Poe story. Strangely, a schoolmate of William Wilson's, who arrived on the same day and appeared almost physically identical to William Wilson, shared his name as well. Although they were "the most inseparable of companions," the narrator developed a potent hatred for his counterpart. In an odd encounter, the narrator sneaks by candlelight into his companion's bedroom, and steals a glimpse of William Wilson as he sleeps. In awe, the narrator hurriedly fled the chamber and the school, never to return again. Two years later, while at Oxford, the narrator's twin appears abruptly at a card game which William Wilson is handily winning, and exposes Wilson as a cheat. William Wilson is forced to leave Oxford immediately.

The narrator travels around Europe in search of revenge, always missing him. Finally, at a carnival in Rome, the William Wilsons meet. The narrator grabs the William Wilson from the "school-boy days,--the namesake, the companion, the rival" and violently stabs him to death. The dying Wilson utters, "You have conquered, and I yield. Yet henceforward art thou also dead--dead to the World, to Heaven, and to Hope!"

Importance of the work: "William Wilson" is an example of Poe's progress as a writer of fiction. In earlier works, the physical and mental identities of the characters are maintained. In "William Wilson," however, a battle between moral and physical identities is waged, and the moral identity wins (Quinn 287).

"William Wilson" is also important in that, although a work of fiction, it does contain historical elements of Poe's past. We see Poe's school and his schoolmaster (whose name actual name, Bransby, appears in the story) depicted. Although Poe adds his fair share of darkness and mystery, "William Wilson" reveals many facts about Poe's earlier years.

-- Anonymous, April 08, 2002

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