Study Guide

William Wilson Lies and Deceit

By Edgar Allan Poe

Lies and Deceit

There is little of objective reality to be found in “William Wilson,” and if you think you’ve found it, good luck proving that it's not a lie. From the story’s unreliable narrator to its ambiguous conclusion, it’s just hard to tell what the real deal is. The text focuses heavily on self-deception and the imagination’s ability to convince us of even the most unfathomable ideas.

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. What reason does the narrator give for lying about his name? Does this seem like an honest explanation?
  2. It’s possible that the narrator is lying to us. We can examine the details surrounding his tale to get more information. How long after the murder of the second William Wilson is the narrator narrating his tale? Where is he as he is telling us this story?
  3. To understand whether or not the narrator is telling the truth, we can take a closer look at the motivations of his character. Why does William kill his double when he does? Why not sooner?

Chew on This

William Wilson lies to his reader only subconsciously, because he has convinced himself of his own deceptions.

William Wilson consciously lies to his readers.