“William Wilson” Opinion Essay


Portfolio Assignment 8.4: “William Wilson” Opinion Essay

“William Wilson” is a frightening tale of a school boy slowly and steadily falling into insanity while being haunted by his doppelgänger. Yet, this is just one small view of a much larger picture that Edgar Allan Poe is trying to reveal to the reader. You will be writing a short one-page essay on the following prompt:

What statement is Poe making in “William Wilson” about human nature and society in general? Explain how events in the story prove and support your opinion.

Your essay needs to be one page typed. It will be turned in with portfolio 2.



Despite how you might feel about Poe’s work yourself there is no denying the brilliance of his writing. His ability to weave a tale which toys with our imaginations is nearly unsurpassed. Think back on his stories which you’ve read and see if you can remember these hallmarks of his style. In fact, these are generally good traits for any narrative.

  • An opening which introduces the audience to some or all of these elements: narrator, setting, the problem, characters. (Think about the opening of “William Wilson”—which of these were introduced?)
  • Notice how he uses reflection to get the reader inside the head of the narrator.
  • Poe varies the pacing of his stories, often using dialogue to slow time down and insert the reader into the story.
  • Description which does not detract from the story. Good detail and sensory description (description using the five senses) is key to a story but if it is done with a heavy hand it can ruin the story.
  • Poe’s conclusions, while often surprising, still feel as if they flow naturally from the previous scenes and details of the story.

Instead of relying upon one specific literary style or trick, Poe uses these and other techniques in combinations to draw the reader deeper into the story. Now that you’ve recognized these techniques and seen them used by a master, you get to implement them yourself.

Poe uses his excellent prose and narrative style to write fictional tales of suspense. You will do the same. I will walk you through the process of pre-writing then leave you to write your story. The first thing you’ve got to determine is what kind of scary or suspenseful story are you going to write. Will it be a supernatural thriller, or a suspenseful murder mystery, will there be ghosts, or an insane asylum?

Poe Short-story Rubric

Strong Developing Emerging
Opening The opening of the story is interesting and introduces at least two of these elements: Narrator, setting, characters, conflict The opening is interesting or introduces two of these elements: Narrator, setting, characters, conflict The opening is neither interesting nor introduces any of these elements: Narrator, setting, characters, conflict
Detail The story has good sensory detail which uses all of the senses at least once The story has some sensory detail but only uses three of the five senses The story has very little sensory detail using only one sense
Dialogue Story has convincing dialogue which adds to the story The story has dialogue The story has very little or no dialogue
Conclusion The story has a conclusion which flows naturally out of previous events. The story has a conclusion which fits but doesn’t flow with the rest of the story The story doesn’t have a conclusion or has a conclusion which seems to have nothing to do with the story
5pts 3pts 1pts
Total _____/20
Story is no more than 2 pages single space. 5pts
Turned in elements of plot outline 5pts



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