" The house, I have said, was old and irregular. The grounds were extensive, and a high and solid brick wall, topped with a bed of mortar and broken glass, encompassed the whole. This prison-like rampart formed the limit of our domain; beyond it we saw but thrice a week -- once every Saturday afternoon, when, attended by two ushers, we were permitted to take brief walks in a body through some of the neighbouring fields -- and twice during Sunday, when we were paraded in the same formal manner to the morning and evening service in the one church of the village. Of this church the principal of our school was pastor. With how deep a spirit of wonder and perplexity was I wont to regard him from our remote pew in the gallery, as, with step solemn and slow, he ascended the pulpit! This reverend man, with countenance so demurely benign, with robes so glossy and so clerically flowing, with wig so minutely powdered, so rigid and so vast, -- -could this be he who, of late, with sour visage, and in snuffy habiliments, administered, ferule in hand, the Draconian laws of the academy? Oh, gigantic paradox, too utterly monstrous for solution! "
The Mental Prison
William Wilson's fragmented mental state restricts him from integrating both sides of his person ality. He describes the house in an extremely detailed way and pays close attention to it s structure and foundation , which can be seen as an extended metaphor of his deteriorated men tal state.
He goes on to call the house "old an d irregular" which can also refer to his insanity stricken mind that causes him to perceive irregular forms of reality through hallucinations. The "extensive" grounds of the house serve to be as t he framework of his mind which shows that he is inherently intelligent and this is perhaps why he is able to succeed at school and obtain mastery over his peers as well as propensity for deceiving others through ingenious schemes. However , the "solid brick wall" does not allow different parts of his personality to cross over and form a unified identity. There is a constant struggle between the moralistic side of his personality ( the super ego) and the immoral and pleasure seeking side ( the id) which are on two different sides of the wall. The wall is topped with "mort ar" and "broken glass" which is an interesting choice of words as they both depict violence and destruction and hint towards the intrapsychic conflict present in William Wilson' s mind.
The tone in the following lines suggests formality and strictness apparent by William Wilson's feeling of being in a "prison-like rampart" and his domain of being fixated and limited. He is trappe d and fixated in his wicked state and does not allow his conscience to shine through. As we see later in the story, his conscience is only allowed t o make an appearance when he is committing a sin just like how he was only allowed out of the house on Sunday's to go to church to possibly repent for his misdeeds. He is afraid to face his conscience as he is "paraded" to church. When he sees the face of his double he is horror struck and leaves the school, thereafter whenever the double appears his face is always shrouded in shadows or covered up so that William can not directly see the double's face or face his conscience.
The awe and confusion that Willi am Wilson regards his principal with depicts his struggle with being able to identify with a single identity that has different personality traits. He uses hyperbole to describe the dual role Reverend Dr. Branby plays as the principal of the school and the pas tor of the church. He misunderstands Reverend Dr Branby's appropriateness for a situation by describing his countenance as "demurely benign" and robes as "angelically flowing" as a pastor and then stating he has hidden sourness in his "visage" and that his clothes in school are " snuffy " as compared to his robes. He also mistakes the principal's methods of discipline require d in school as "Draconian