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September 22, 2006

Marquita'a Quote Commentary on William Wilson

"The teeming brain of childhood requires no external world of incident to occupy or amuse it; and the apparently dismal monotony of a school was replete with more intense excitment than my riper youth has derived from luxury, or my full manhood from crime." (Poe, William Wilson pp. 340-341)

The narrator tells of his schooldays before fully delving into the mystery of the story. The first sentence emphasizes the power of the brain, and specifically it's role as stimulus, and perhaps even entertainment. The fact that the brain "requires no external world" places the focus on the internal, which later reflects Wilson's own internal struggle with the "other William Wilson". The phrases "dismal monotony" and "intense excitement" are set up in opposition; paralleling an opposition central to the story, namely that of the title character in opposition with his own conscience (the other William Wilson). This opposition is made apparent throughout the story, as all of the underhanded attempts of William Wilson are foiled- at the hands of his antagonist. Luxury is paired with crime in such a way that they are almost made synonymous: in childhood, excitement is said to stem from luxury; in manhood that same excitement (for the narrator) stems from crime.

Posted by burkmar at September 22, 2006 01:06 PM


My attention was captured the most by the difference between the internal mind and external stimulus in amusing the brain which you mentioned in reference to Wilson's internal struggle. The word apparently in "the apparently dismal monotony of a school" conveyed to me the meaning that while his school years may have appeared APPARENTLY dull to an outside observer, the case was actually quite the opposite. In fact these years were filled with "intense excitement." This is an example of the opposition used by Poe, something seemed one way but was actually quite different. I agree that the two phrases ("dismal monotony" and "intense excitement") is another one of the many examples that Poe sprinkels throughtout the text to parallel the opposiontion between the narrorator's struggle with the other William Wilson.

Posted by: monikade at September 24, 2006 10:48 PM

sorry about the spelling errors in the last sentence!

Posted by: monikade at September 24, 2006 11:04 PM


When you talked about "paralleling an opposition central to the story", you could have been more precise about unpacking what the "opposition" is and how it is central to the story, for example giving instances of how you think such an opposition works elsewhere in the story...


Posted by: bhattach at September 25, 2006 02:24 AM

Further comments from Sayan:

You say: "in childhood, excitement is said to stem from luxury". But that's not quite what the passage is saying. If you re-read the passage more carefully, it is talking about not two (childhood and manhood) but three different life stages: "childhood", "riper youth" and "full manhood". "Luxury" is being associated with "riper youth", not with "childhood", which is being described as needing "no external world of incident" at all.

Posted by: bhattach at October 2, 2006 09:24 PM

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