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Doppelgänger trope

Related: body double - trope - E. T. A. Hoffmann (The Devil's Elixir (1815) - Poe (William Wilson, 1839) - The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886 novel) - The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890 novel) - Psycho (1960 film)

Both Hitchcock and Nabokov made substantial use of the narrative devices of the doppelgänger and the "unreliable narrator," established in the 19th century romantic literature that heavily influenced both men. --James A. Davidson via Imagesjournal.com

The theme of the 'double' has been very thoroughly treated by Otto Rank (1914). He has gone into the connections which the 'double' has with reflections in mirrors, with shadows, with guardian spirits, with the belief in the soul and with the fear of death; but he also lets in a flood of light on the surprising evolution of the idea. For the 'double' was originally an insurance against the destruction of the ego, an 'energetic denial of the power of death' --Sigmund Freud, 1919

Dopplegänger comes from German; literally translated, it means “doublegoer.” A dopplegänger is often the ghostly counterpart of a living person. It can also mean a double, alter ego, or even another person who has the same name.  In analyzing the dopplegänger as a psychic projection caused by unresolved anxieties, Otto Rank decribed the double as possessing traits both complementary and antithetical to the character involved.
In Psycho, by Robert Bloch, Norman Bates becomes so distraught after killing his mother in a jealous rage that he gradually takes on her personality. She becomes his alter ego, and by the end of the novel has taken over his mind completely.  Other famed doubles in Gothic lore include Jekyll/Hyde, Victor Frankenstein/his monster, Caleb Williams/Falkland, and Jane Eyre/Bertha.  Perhaps the most perfect literary example of a dopplegänger can be found in Henry James' "The Jolly Corner." --Jessica Dunlap via http://www.georgiasouthern.edu/~dougt/goth.html#dop [Apr 2006]


A doppelgänger is the ghostly double of a living person, adapted from German Doppelgänger (look-alike). The word comes from doppel meaning "double" and Gänger translated as "goer". The term has, in the vernacular, come to refer to any double of a person, most commonly in reference to a so-called evil twin, or to bilocation: Somewhere, in a parallel universe, your evil twin exists. Identical to you in every physical attribute, its mind is twisted, evil and hell-bent on destruction; it is everything you are not. Occasionally a doppelganger stumbles upon a portal into our universe, and there are many twins living quietly among us, their powers weakened by the Earth. However, if by chance your twin should cross your path and make eye contact with you, his evil will be unleashed.

Alternatively, the word is used to describe a phenomenon where you catch your own image out of the corner of your eye. In some mythologies, seeing one's own doppelgänger is an omen of death. A doppelgänger seen by friends or relatives of a person may sometimes bring bad luck, or indicate an approaching illness or health problem.

The Doppelgängers of folklore cast no shadow and no reflection in a mirror or in water. They are supposed to provide advice to the person they shadow, but this advice could be misleading or malicious. They could also, in rare instances, plant ideas in their victim's mind or appear before friends and relatives, causing confusion.

Doppelgängers appear in a variety of science fiction and fantasy works, in which they are a type of shapeshifter that mimics a particular person or species for some typically nefarious reason.

A temporal Doppelgänger is any version of oneself one may meet during time travel. It is an exact likeness of one at a specific time in your history (or future). Meetings with oneself may occur when one version of oneself travels backwards through the timestream and encounters a younger version of oneself, or when two or more of the same person from different timestreams travel to the same moment in their futures. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doppelg%C3%A4nger [Jan 2006]

See also: American literature - Edgar Allan Poe - 1830s - 1839

Edgar Allan Poe, Otto Rank and the doppelgänger

"You have conquered, and I yield. Yet, henceforward art thou also dead—dead to the World, to Heaven and to Hope! In me didst thou exist—and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast murdered thyself."

Der Doppelgänger (1914) - Otto Rank [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
Otto Rank (1884-1939) the early disciple and colleague of Freud, who later broke with him and developed his own psychoanalytic school, was a many-sided man whose genius found expression beyond the strictly psychoanalytic field in contributions to the criticism of art and literature, and the history of myth and religion. The Double, inspired partially by H.H. Ewer's silent film classic 'The Student of Prague', is primarily a study of the Doppelganger theme as it appears in European and American literature, exemplified in the works by such authors as Goethe, Hoffman, Dostoevsky and Wilde. By integrating psychoanalytic concepts with insights from poetry and myth, the investigation is extended to examine issues at the core of human existence: identity, narcissism, the relation of past to present, and the fear of death.In his book 'Acts of Will: The Life and Work of Otto Rank', Rank's biographer E. J. Lieberman has described The Double as a "seminal Work on the relation of shadow, reflection, ghost and twin to the idea of soul and immortality". --via Amazon.fr

The Double (2004) - Jose Saramago

The Double (2004) - Jose Saramago [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

From Publishers Weekly
The double motif, which has fascinated authors as diverse as Poe, Dostoyevski and Nabokov, is revived in this surprisingly listless novel by Portuguese master Saramago. Tertuliano Máximo Afonso is a history teacher in an unnamed metropolis (presumably Lisbon). Middle-aged, divorced and in a relationship with a woman, Maria da Paz, he is bored with life. On the suggestion of a colleague, one night Máximo watches a video that changes everything. The video itself is a forgettable comedy, but the actor who plays the minor role of hotel clerk (so minor he isn't listed in the credits) is Afonso's physical double. Soon Afonso is feverishly renting videos, trying to find the actor's name, while hiding his project from his suspicious colleague, his lover and his mother. Finally tracking the man down, he suggests a meeting. The actor, a rather sleazy fellow, resents Afonso's presence, as if his identical appearance were a sort of ontological theft. Soon the two are in a competition that involves sex and power. Narrating in his usual long, rambling sentences, Saramago suspends his characters and their actions in fussy authorial asides. Afonso has several hokey "dialogues" with "common sense"; his situation, which might be the germ for an excellent short story, is stretched out far beyond the length it deserves. This semi-allegory is certainly not one of Saramago's more noteworthy offerings. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --via Amazon.com

José Saramago (born November 16, 1922) is a Portuguese writer, playwright, and journalist. He usually presents subversive perspectives of historical events in his works, trying to underline the human factor behind historical events, instead of presenting the usual official historical narratives. Some works of his can also be seen as allegories in several contexts.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998. He currently lives on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, Spain. He was in his mid-fifties before he won the acclaim of an international audience. It was the publication in 1988 of his Baltasar and Blimunda that first brought him to the attention of an English-speaking readership.

Harold Bloom has considered José Saramago the "most gifted novelist alive in the world today".

Saramago tends to write long sentences, punctuating in a way that is generally taught as incorrect; one page-long sentences are common since he uses commas where most writers would place periods. Many of his paragraphs match the length of some authors' chapters. He uses no quotation marks to delimit dialog. Surprisingly, it does not take most readers long to become adjusted to reading his unique style of prose. In his novel Blindness, Saramago sometimes abandons the use of proper nouns.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jose Saramago [Apr 2006]

See also: the double motif

The Double: A Petersburg Poem (1846) - Fyodor Dostoevsky

In search of doppelgänger and unreliable narrators.

The Double: A Petersburg Poem (1846) - Fyodor Dostoevsky [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

See entry for Dostoevsky

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