Return To Oneness Essay, Research Paper
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 what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart.?? But what he did not know was that through his crime he was unconsciously seeking his death. The shuttered lantern in his hand chanced to symbolize the thing he hated, the pale blue eye of the old man, the eye with a film over it, and in this way the executioner and victim exchanged experiences. At the end of the story, the ever-louder heartbeats betrayed the narrator??s crime. With the extinction of his adversary, the madman brought on his own death. A double entity collapses and Oneness prevails.
Although Poe accepted that the motions of the universe are double, he himself seems more obsessed with the return to Unity than the springing forth from Unity. Unlike Whitman who sings the joys of selfhood and the departure from Oneness, Poe predicts the loss of selfhood and the reunion of the soul with the Godhead. It is important for us to note Poe’s belief that only in dissolution, in death, can the longing for unity imprinted on all matter and spirit be satisfied. Perversity plays an important part in such a longing of everything to rejoin the Godhead, the tendency of all, including humanity, to seek demise. We should notice that when Poe speaks of perverseness, he does not mean ??perverted?? in ordinary sense of the word. Perversity in Poe is violations of a person??s own spiritual vitality, purely in Poe??s terms. Poe attributes perversity to many of his characters?? destruction. From the three tales mentioned above, we can see clearly how perversity operates in bringing Poe??s characters to nothingness. First, the impulse to perform an act, then, a judgment of the psyche and recognition of the conscience that the committed act would be damaging to the spirit or the organism of the initiator. In most cases, upon the cognizance by the initiator of the severe harmfulness of his act, he is not far from his annihilation.
Furthermore, Poe tells us that perversity, which corresponds to the maelstromic collapse phase of God’s individuation, is so integral to human experience. Poe wrote that in the original Unity of the First Thing lies the Secondary Cause of All Things, with the germ of their Inevitable Annihilation. In his prologues to “The Imp of the Perverse” and “The Black Cat,” Poe describes perverseness as the germ or elemental seed of annihilation that resides within the psyche. According to Poe, people wreck their lives because of impulses beyond their control. It is the irrepressible, ever louder tell-tale heart that marks the ruination of many of Poe’s narrators.
Perhaps Poe??s most lucid portrayal of radical, primitive impulse?? perversity resides in his tale The Cask of Amontillado. . Montresor exploits Fortunato’s vanity concerning the connoisseurship of wine; specifically, Montresor pretends to want a wine cask of Amontillado verified as genuine. Montresor chooses a time when Fortunato is drunk to dupe him into going down the spiral stairs into the catacombs. But rather than a mere cask of wine, Fortunato finds his death; for Montresor bricks him into a niche of the catacombs which has remained undisturbed for the fifty years since the murder was performed. Montresor and Fortunato represent a doppelganger illustrative of perversity. Fortunato indulges in worldly pleasures. Montresor acts as his judging half to kill him. They are actually but one person with divided personality. If William Wilson is a tale about continuously unchecked perversity which results in the annihilation of William Wilson, The Cask of Amontillado can be seen as a tale about the perversity, whether is checked or not, nevertheless bringing destined total destruction for perversity is imprinted in human mind by God, will unavoidably destroy the person concerned to resolve the duality of human life.
Creativity and perversity approximates the contraction and expansion of the universe. If we are justified to be proud of the supremacy in our creativity among all creatures, we are equally obliged to acknowledge the perversity, which Poe believes, is secreted in every material and spiritual filament of the cosmos, to be as strong as creative power in human beings. This primal impulse will eventually obliterate the Self into Oneness. Only in God??s unity, all matters escape from their conflicting nature and a normal state assumes.