Guide to Literary Terms

Start Your Free Trial

Is "character double" a term of the literary criticism, and what is the definition of "character double"?

Expert Answers info

Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write4,695 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

The character double is a term in English that is often referred to by the German word "dopplegänger," "double walker," or "double goer." It is a common literary device found in folklore. It means that two characters, often physically so similar they might be twins, have very different personalities and serve as sharp contrasts or antagonists, called foils, in the themes or plot. The most basic opposition is good versus evil in their natures.

Two classic examples from American literature are Edgar Allan Poe's short story "William Wilson." The young William meets another boy at school who not only looks just like him, but even has the same name. The double always whispers, however. The story does not end well and includes a surprise revelation.

In a lighter vein, in The Prince and the Pauper , Mark Twain offers a tale set in sixteenth-century England of two boys so similar they might be twins. One, Tom Canty, is very poor; the other, Prince Edward, is the son of England's King Henry VIII....

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 513 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write5,918 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Business







check Approved by eNotes Editorial