Return to Oneness


Return to Oneness
????On the Theme of Doppelganger in Poe??s tales
Doppelganger is a wraith or apparition of a living person, as distinguished from a ghost. The concept of the existence of a spirit double, an exact but usually invisible replica of every man, bird, or beast, is an ancient and widespread belief. Everyone who reads Poe can easily notice the use of the dual or fractured image in his tales. I will analyze a group of tales in which the motif of doppelganger is apparent and try to see what significance it has and how relevant it is to an understanding of him.
Poe believes that an artist's finite mind should reflect as closely as possible the infinite mind of God. What is the infinite mind of God? Poe says that God created matter from His spirit. The matter in the beginning assumes its simplest form, without any distinct temperament, trait, or type. This simplest form comprises Oneness, which Poe believes to be the only natural condition of the universe. However, this simplest form gradually loses its Oneness and is willed by God into ??abnormal condition of many??. The transition of universe from natural to unnatural, from normal to abnormal is accompanied by individualizations of all spiritual and material matters in the universe. Being in an unnatural and abnormal state, these spiritual and material individuations long for, and eventually return to the Divine Unity, which is, as I mentioned above, the only natural condition of the universe in Poe??s context. Upon reunification, God recreates the universe in another round in the same way. This is what is called the infinite mind of God. Although Poe??s notion that an artist??s mind should mirror God??s mind is absolutely idealistic, Poe seems to live this ideal to a great extent by employing the image of doppelganger into his tales. Poe believes that the human body and the psyche follow the same pattern manifested in the birth and death of a universe. His doppelganger corresponds to the individualized and differentiated, and therefore unnatural stage of universe. Like the universe at its abnormal stage, his doppelganger instinctively wants to rejoin the body, to return to Oneness. But in what way Poe??s doppelganger returns to the primitive, normal state? Poe gives the same answer in many of his tales.
William Wilson, undoubtedly, is the most explicit of Poe??s treatments of the Double-theme. Some critics even maintain that it is the classic story of the kind. William Wilson is a first-person account of a man??s struggle with his own conscience. The similarities, which are repeated throughout the tale, between William Wilson and his double, intimate to us that they are one person, and his double is his conscience. The unrelenting vexations and agonies that ensue from each encounter with his conscience, along with his invisible face and low whisper, portray both indirectly and directly Wilson??s reluctance and awe to confront his psychological judging half. At the end of the tale, when Wilson becomes totally impatient with and intolerable of his double, he murders his conscience in a nasty way. What??s left is a living dead. The malicious killing, in which the doppelganger is destroyed, echoes Poe??s belief that death is the return of spirit to unity and that this return to unity parallels a grand universal consistency.
Another tale, The Fall of the house of Usher, is most readily intelligible as a fable of the split personality. The fissure which ran down from the top of the mansion to the bottoms and which the visitor first noticed when he approached to it is a manifestation that the dissolutionary seed has sprouted. In this decaying house lived Roderick and Madeline. The sister was so ill that the brother buried her alive and put the coffin away in one secluded part of the house. On a tempestuous night, the sister crept out and died in the embrace of his brother, who then also died. Roderick and his sister??s deaths are simultaneous, and soon after this takes place the physical house divides and collapses. Usher and house reflect God??s mind as they collapse into Oneness.
The Tell-Tale Heart, again, explores the psychology of the bipartite soul. The narrator murdered the old man simply because ??whenever it (the old man??s pale blue eye) fell upon me, my blood ran cold ??. The murder identified himself with his victim:?? I knew