Novels About Duality

A character in these novels has, or believes they have, a dual personality.

Duality in Novels

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance | Robert Pirsig

The unnamed narrator is riding his motorcycle from Minnesota to California with his son and two friends. He philosophizes about classicism and romanticism and relates motorcycle maintenance to an individual’s spiritual health. His son, Chris, has been diagnosed with a possible symptom of mental illness. The narrator hints that he is inhabited by an alternate personality, explaining what it is and that it might be reemerging.

Read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”

Something Wicked This Way Comes | Ray Bradbury

Jim and Will are fourteen-years-old and best friends. While out walking, Jim thinks he can hear music , a store owner seems to be listening for something and, later, the barber smells cotton candy. They see a flyer advertising a carnival. Late at night they hear a train approaching, so they sneak out to watch but it’s unsettling – the crew sets up in silence and some things seem to be happening without any human effort. When they go to the carnival the next day everything looks normal. Their teacher gets frightened in the Mirror Maze; they boys witness increasingly bizarre events at the carnival.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde | Robert Louis Stevenson

Dr. Jekyll is walking with his lawyer, Gabriel, and another man, Enfield, when a story is told of a man named Hyde with a highly displeasing appearance and manner, who knocked down a little girl in the street. Gabriel discovers that Jekyll has Hyde in his will, having bequeathed all his possessions to him. An associate says that Jekyll’s mind hasn’t been right for ten years. Gabriel looks into Hyde, finding him to be disgusting and evil. A witness later identifies him as the man who committed a serious crime.

“All human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone, in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil.”

Read “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

Middlesex | Jeffrey Eugenides

Cal was born as a girl in 1960, and again as a teenage boy in 1974. Cal relates the story of her life and her genetic abnormality. She describes her experiences growing up as a girl with the emerging feeling that she isn’t fully female. She relates the history of her grandparents, whose union puts everything into motion.

Steppenwolf | Hermann Hesse

When Harry Haller abruptly leaves his rented room, the narrator finds a manuscript Haller wrote about himself. It records his distaste for life–its mediocrity, its conventions and comforts. When he’s out walking one evening, he is handed a book by a stranger that is about Haller’s personality and attitude. It claims he has a dual nature–man and wolf. Haller considers suicide to escape his unsatisfying life.

Read “Steppenwolf”

Juneteenth | Ralph Ellison

Reverend Hickman leads some of his followers to see Senator Sunraider, a known racist. He is giving a speech with some racist rhetoric when he is shot by a black man. Hickman is distraught; although they oppose each other now, they have a history.


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