Study Guide

William Wilson Freedom and Confinement

By Edgar Allan Poe

Freedom and Confinement

“William Wilson” is the story of a man trapped by his own conscience and victim to his own overactive imagination. All of his attempts at escaping are necessarily doomed from the start; man cannot run from his alter ego, nor rid himself of conscience, nor break free of his own imagination. The text also raises issues of destiny or fate as an inescapable chain that binds us, and asks whether one’s natural predispositions can ever be circumvented.

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. The narrator stresses both the tall wall and strong gate that closed in the schoolyard at Dr. Bransby’s. What is his point in describing these details?
  2. The narrator claims that he was victim to a cruel fate; what sort of fate is he talking about? Is this really a case of destiny?
  3. Why can’t the narrator escape from the second William Wilson when he flees around the world?

Chew on This

William Wilson is trapped and haunted only by his own shame.

The second William Wilson is a real person who takes away the narrator’s freedom.