Poe's William Wilson And Multiple Personality Disorder: Shedding New Light

2518 words - 10 pages

Heather Knous 11-2-01 Poe's "William Wilson" and Multiple Personality Disorder: Shedding New Light In Edgar Allan Poe's story "William Wilson," he attempts to explain a psychological issue before the presence of the science of psychology. By explaining a new idea, he struggles to define the sickness from which the narrator is suffering, and of which he ultimately becomes a victim. In light of the modern theory of multiple personality disorder, we can begin to understand and explain the ambiguous meaning often found in the text. In this essay, I will examine four parts of the story, and examine how each section successively builds up the idea that the narrator suffers from multiple personality disorder.The first section of the story is the presentation of the narrator, in which he is recounting for us what has happened up to the present point. The narrator introduces himself and then proceeds to tell the audience that he is dying. Hidden within the text, are subtle clues that the narrator has suffered from a disease. He describes himself as being "an object for the scorn""for the horror""for the detestation of my race" (337). In this line, the "race" of which he assumes himself to be a part, is most likely those outcast in a society that does not understand mental illness. "Oh, outcast of all outcasts most abandoned." Here, the idea of the narrator being an "other" is supported. The narrator is abandoned and outcast because he suffers from a disease. A society often scorns what they do not comprehend, and Poe's society did not understand mental illness; and therefore reject the narrator. It seems that American society has and always will reject those in most dire need of help. The narrator, at the time of his death, is caught in the midst of vast confusion, trying to understand what has happened to him. His struggle with his own mind is discussed in this quote: "¦that, although temptation may have erewhile existed as great, man was never thus, at least, tempted before""certainly never thus fell. And is it therefore that he has never thus suffered? Have I not indeed been living in a dream? And am I not now dying a victim to the horror and the mystery of the wildest of all sublunary visions? (337-338) Here, even the narrator does not understand what is happening to him and describes his life as a dream and a horror.However, the notion of temptation is more difficult to explicate. Multiple personality disorder causes a person to be constantly at arms with life, struggling to maintain focus and stability. The narrator is caught in this cycle, and says he has battled temptation and has "fallen thus." Sometimes, amiss this distress, people with mental illnesses become victims of the disintegration of their own minds. The narrator, though he is trying to abolish the effects of his disease (such as anxiety, fear, and confusion), he becomes a victim of them, and is then "tempted" toward madness. He realizes the fact that he has become a victim of...

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