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William Wilson

William Wilson


by Edgar Allan Poe

Reverend Dr. Bransby

Character Analysis

Dr. Bransby is both the principal of William’s school and the pastor of the school’s church. William notes an odd discrepancy here in the two roles this man plays. Take a look:

With how deep a spirit of wonder and perplexity was I wont to regard him from our remote pew in the gallery, as, with step solemn and slow, he ascended the pulpit! This reverend man, with countenance so demurely benign, with robes so glossy and so clerically flowing, with wig so minutely powdered, so rigid and so vast,—-could this be he who, of late, with sour visage, and in snuffy habiliments, administered, ferule in hand, the Draconian laws of the academy? Oh, gigantic paradox, too utterly monstrous for solution! (6)

Or, to use more straightforward language: the Reverend seems to have a double identity! One half is the severe, strict, no-nonsense principal, and the other the kind, harmless pastor. How can one man comprise two such different halves?

This is exactly the question we should be asking of William Wilson, who ALSO shares two halves (the vice-loving scoundrel, and the morality-driven double). This “gigantic paradox” is at the heart of our tale. Is it, in fact, “too utterly monstrous for solution” (6)? Or do we come to some conclusion about the duality of human nature by the story’s end?