by Edgar Allan Poe
William Wilson Theme of Guilt and Blame
“William Wilson” presents conscience as a distinct and separate part of our identity, an alter ego, in fact. Conscience dogs us, doesn’t let us rest, is always by our side – sometimes to our great anger and frustration! Can a man rid himself of conscience? What kind of existence would remain to him after such an action? How much is the conscience an integral part of our identities, and how much of it can be torn asunder from us? The text explores these and other questions.
Questions About Guilt and Blame
- If the second William Wilson is the narrator’s conscience, and is murdered at the end of the story, then why does the narrator feel so guilty about his life?
- What does William resent more – having to share his name and appearances with another man, or the second William Wilson’s interference with his affairs?
- Does William Wilson really feel shame over his actions at the card table, or is he just embarrassed at having been caught?
Chew on This
“William Wilson” is a moralistic tale.
“William Wilson” is not a moralistic tale.