The Fall of the House of Usher. Edgar Allan Poe. Poe as Gothic Writer. He sought to examine the emotional side of the human experience. He describes in minute detail the characters and setting to show the psychology of horror and madness through the perceptions of the narrator.
The Fall of the House of Usher Edgar Allan Poe
Poe as Gothic Writer • He sought to examine the emotional side of the human experience. • He describes in minute detail the characters and setting to show the psychology of horror and madness through the perceptions of the narrator. • The narrator not only witnesses madness and horror in the House of Usher – but participates in it as well.
Summary • The story begins as the narrator arrives at the home of his boyhood friend, Roderick Usher. The narrator finds Usher greatly changed and depressed and his home in decay. The narrator tries to raise his friend’s spirits, but during his visit; Usher’s ailing sister, Madeline dies. After her burial Usher and the narrator hear strange sounds. Then Madeline appears, dressed in her burial garments. Falling into each other’s arms, brother and sister die together. As the narrator flees, the mansion splits apart and falls into the lake.
Mood • Gloom and dread “an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart” (line 16) “precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn” (lines 28-29)
Usher’s Mental Stability • Usher says he has “acute bodily illness (line 39), but the letter showed “nervous agitation” of a “mental disorder” (lines 39-40). • The house seems to mirror its owner. • The title refers to the family members and the house.
Roderick and Poe’s Use of Exaggeration • Roderick has a strikingly handsome face, but he is pale and lacks energy. • “eye large, liquid, and luminous beyond comparison” (lines 136-137). • “ghastly pallor of the skin” (lines 145-146) • Discussion of his cadaverous complexion, his thin lips, his forehead, and even his nostrils.
Poem – “The Haunted Palace” • The first four stanzas of the poem describe a palace where banners fly and beautiful voices sing. • The beauty of the palace starkly contrasts the dark, melancholy house of Usher. • The last two stanzas show that they are two grand homes haunted by the past and fall into ruins.
Unity of Effect • The characterization, the setting, the poem, the detail… are all used to heighten the reader’s feeling of dread regarding the eventual downfall of Roderick and somewhat for Madeline as well. • The reader is also wondering what will happen to the narrator. • The weather is also terrifying due to some luminous gas that surrounded the mansion.
Unity of Effect • “Mad Trist” is a short story which is playing out in the House of Usher. • “…with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the person of her brother, and in her violent and now final death-agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse, and a victim to the terrors he had anticipated” (lines 584-587).