Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most recognized literary geniuses in the world,not only for his work but also for his turbulent life, his death and the mysterious visits of a possible admirer to his grave. In short, in addition to offering us works as memorable asThe crowhe has become a figure closely related to the mystery; a character, without a doubt, very attractive and interesting. Among all his literary productions, I would particularly like to put a story in front,William Wilson,a brief narrative that brings us closer to the author's subconsciousand a theme that has often been addressed in literature: the theme of double orDoppelgänger.
Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19 in Boston, USA; he is considered the creator of the story of detectives,the renovator of the Gothic novel and, without a shadow of a doubt, as a great master of terror. Psychological terror, the one that plunges into the human mind, disturbs us and makes us feel uncomfortable.
If Poe's life had been a quiet, balanced life and if he had not had any family or alcohol problems, he might not have been the literary genius we know today.Poe's life was tumultuous and the anxiety and mental torture he experienced was reflected in his works.
William Wilsonis one of the most interesting stories of E. A. Poe. It is a story that supposes a renewal of the idea of double that we had in literature; he marks a before and after.William Wilsonis a first-person account, in which "the author" presents himself as William Wilson, even if he warns us that it is a false name; the story focuses on the life of this character and a man who has the same name and first name and who will pursue him all his life.
These two characters are not related. In addition to sharing the same name, they share the same physical appearance; the William Wilson "double" will be the only character who will manage to face the William Wilson "original", the only one that can make him a shadow.
Subconscious, double and literature
Psychoanalysis, in spite of what one can sometimes think of it, can be very useful in the analysis of literary texts, especially those which present a greater symbolic burden.Psychoanalysis can be a very useful tool in literature; inThe interpretation of dreamsandPsychopathy of everyday lifefrom Freud, we expose the idea that dreams assume a release / expression of traumas related to the famous psychic structure: unconscious, preconscious and conscious. The unconscious tries to bring out trauma and Freud interpreted dreams as a vehicle for this journey to consciousness.
Literature and art have been seen as a mechanism similar to that of dreams: the authors reveal possible traumas through metaphors and symbols.Freud brings together a series of phenomena that we see in literature: the appearance of the double, the dismembered body, the magical thought, etc.
Throughout the history of literature, we have found a large number of symbols and metaphors that we can interpret through psychoanalysis. One of the most studied cases is, perhaps, the Oedipus complex; we can find an infinity of phallic symbols, forms of symbolic death of the father's figure (elimination of the rival) … in an infinity of poems and literary works.A good example of this would be the poemThe motherof Dámaso Alonso and, in the field of art,Saturn devouring his sonfrom Goya,a work that has been interpreted from the point of view of psychoanalysis and which keeps a link with cannibalism, melancholy, destruction and sexual problems.
Literature supposes a way of access to the unconscious and this was not born with Freud but has been present throughout history.For example, Aristotle said that by attending Greek tragedy shows in which real brutality was observed, the purging and the purification of emotions were given free rein. Through literature and art, we can see a multitude of very unpleasant internal conflicts that require liberation.
The theme of the double is associated with the ideation of the soul, establishes a structure of duplicity and manifests itself through mirrors, reflections (water), etc.When we analyze a literary or artistic work, it is interesting to pay attention to these small details that can give us tracks on the true meaning of the work.
In Antiquity, we already found the mythological character of Narcissus, who falls in love with his reflection in the water.This is one of the first examples of the double theme. We also find this in some comedies of Plautus. Originally, the double had been seen as an element of comedy: to confuse twins and tell something to the wrong twin, confusing situations that cause laughter, and so on. However, and more particularlywith the advent of romanticism, the idea of the malevolent double, the "unhealthy twin" appears: it will eventually receive a dramatic treatment and the comic will be put aside.
William Wilsongo a step beyond this dramatism;William Wilson's double is not the classic malevolent twin because he is a "superior" character in certain aspects,a character who will be a kind of voice of his conscience, an improved version of himself and, therefore, a threat to the pride of the protagonist.
The theme of the double inWilliam Wilson
The first-person narrative and date of birth of William Wilson (January 19, as Poe) invite us into a work with autobiographical tendencies.One thing that does not really surprise us if we take into account the turbulent life of the author;William Wilsonwould be a kind of awareness for Poe, a kind of mirror of the internal struggle that the author lived during this period.
The duplication of personality is obvious from the beginning, not only because of the appearance of double but also because of the name chosen: William Wilson.The initial "W" already implies duplicity and, moreover, works in both name and surname; this is not trivial if we take into account the argument of the work.
William Wilson and his double become inseparable companions; something invites him to hate and attack him because it is a threatbut, at the same time, he appreciates his double and sees in him his reflection. The similarities are more and more obvious and the double comes to copy the way he dresses and walks. William Wilson is a reckless character who goes beyond the barriers of legality and "politically correct"; he likes excesses and alcohol; his double, on the other hand, will try to sabotage all his plans.
The problem of the double is approached in a daring and profound way in this work; the double becomes a real nightmare for the protagonist and a clear reflection of the author's personal conflicts.The split personality will lead to a stifling situation, full of anxiety for the protagonistand which, as one would expect in a work of this style, leads us to a spectacular denouement where, of course, the figure of the mirror will have a major role.
In the end, it's a narration worthy of analysis, full of symbolic elements, that deserves more than one reading and reveals the problems of Edgar Allan Poe.William Wilsonis a narrative with autobiographical touches in whichthe author questions his own lifestyle and begins a dialogue with his own conscience.
"During the hour of reading, the soul of the reader is subject to the will of the writer".
-Edgar Allan Poe-