elismIn his short story “The Fall of the House of Usher”, Edgar Allen Poepresents his reader with an intricately suspenseful plot filled with aforeboding sense of destruction.
Poe uses several literary devices, among themost prevalent, however are his morbid imagery and eerie parallelism. Hidden inthe malady of the main character are several different themes, which are allslightly connected yet inherently different.Poe begins the story by placing the narrator in front of the decrepit,decaying mansion of Roderick Usher. Usher summoned his childhood friend, thenarrator, to his home by sending a letter detailing only a minor illness.After the narrator arrives and sees the condition of the house he becomesincreasingly superstitious. When the narrator first sees his host he describeshis morbid appearance and it arouses his superstition even more.
Over a periodof time the narrator begins to understand his friends’ infliction, insanity. Hetries in vane to comfort his friend and provide solace, however to no avail.When Roderick’s only remaining kin, his sister Madeline dies, Rodericks insanityseems to have gone to a heightened level. Shortly after his sister’s death,Roderick’s friend is reading him a story. As things happen in the story,simultaneously the same description of the noises come from within the house.As Usher tries to persuade the narrator that it is his sister coming for him,and his friend believing Roderick has gone stark raving mad, Madeline comesbursting in through the door and kills her brother. The narrator flees from thehouse, and no sooner does he get away than he turns around and sees a fissure inthe houses masonry envelop the house and then watch the ground swallow up theremains.In “The Fall of the House of Usher” Poe introduces the reader to threecharacters; Lady Madeline, Roderick Usher, and the narrator, whose name is nevergiven.
Lady Madelin, the twin sister of Roderick Usher, does not speak one wordthroughout the story. In fact she is absent from most of the story, and she andthe narrator do not stay together in the same room. After the narrators arrivalshe takes to her bed and falls into a catatonic state. He helps to bury her andput her away in a vault, but when she reappears he flees. Before she was buriedshe roamed around the house quietly not noticing anything, completely overcomeby her mental disorder.Roderick Usher appears to be an educated man. He comes from a wealthyfamily and owns a huge library. According to the narrator, he had once been anattractive man and the character of his face had been at all times remarkable(Poe, 126).
However , his appearance had deteriorated over time. Roderick’saltered appearance probably was caused by his insanity. The narrator notesvarious symptoms of insanity from Roderick’s behavior. Roderick’s state worsensthroughout the story as he becomes increasingly restless and unstable,especially after the burial of his sister.
He find himself unable to sleep andalso finds that he hears noises. All in all he is a severely unbalanced mantrying to maintain an equilibrium in his life.In contrast to Roderick, the narrator appears to be a man of common sense.He seems to have a good heart in that he comes to help a friend from hischildhood. He, like, Roderick also appears to be very educated and veryanalytical.
In his observations of Usher he concludes that his friend suffersfrom an acute mental disorder. He looks for natural explanations for the oddthings that Roderick senses. Criticizing Usher for his outrageous fantasies,the narrator claims that Roderick is enchained by certain superstitiousimpressions, in regard to the dwelling which he tenanted(Poe,125). Thenarrator’s tone suggests that he cannot understand Usher. However he himself issuperstitious.
The three characters are unique people with different characteristics, butthey all eventually suffer from the same mental disorder. All of them sufferfrom insanity, yet each responds differently. Madeline seems to accept the factthat she is insane and continues through life with that knowledge. Roderickseems to realize his mental state and makes every effort to hold on his sanity.And the narrator who is slowly but surely contracting the disease, wants to denywhat he sees, hears, and senses.
In the end he regains his senses but onlybecause he flees from the house.Poes writings are known for their macabre subject matter. In The Fall ofthe House of Usher, Poe uses the life-like characteristics of an otherwisedecaying house as a device for giving the house a supernatural atmosphere. Fromthe beginning of the story the narrator claims to have sensed something unusualand supernatural about the house. After he sees the inside of the house thenarrator has a heightened superstition, though he tries to view everything hesees rationally. He observes the home and sees fungi growing all over it andthe decaying masonry there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between itsstill perfect adaptation of parts and the utterly porous and evidently decayedcondition of stones (Poe,125)as if to say something supernatural was holdingthe house up, otherwise it might have fallen apart a long time before.
Bygiving objects almost lifelike characteristics, Poe gives the house asupernatural quality which serves to make the story more interesting andsuspenseful in his treatment of the houses effect on its inhabitants.There are sections in the story where different forms of art; a paintingand a poem, are introduced. Both of them tell a story within a story. Thesestories , in their own way are somehow parallel to the story in The Fall of theHouse of Usher.
The painting was a painting done by Henry Fuesli. Fuesli was noted forhis interest in the supernatural.(Poe, 127). A small picture presented theinterior of an immensely long and rectangular vault or tunnel, with low walls,smooth, white, and without interruption…and bathed the whole in a ghastly andinappropriate splendor.
(Poe, 127). This description can be interpreted as aplace of sorrow, where the atmosphere is morbid and cold. Most people have artin their homes for reasons of cheering up the place. All this painting did wasadd morbidity and coldness to the house.The poem entitled “The Haunted Palace” makes a connection between the houseand its inhabitants. The poem seems to parallel to the plot of The Fall of theHouse of Usher.
Once a fair and stately palace–snow white palace–reared itshead(Poe, 127). This describes the past of the Usher home. It was once astately mansion, but as time went by the house deteriorated along with theconditions of the people occupying it. We get to the present in both the storyand this excerpt but evil things in rokes of sorrow, assailed the monarchs highestate(Poe, 126).
This is what is happening to the Usher house now. The housealong with its inhabitants are full of sorrow.Poe uses differing themes of fear, death, and freedom throughout the storyto set a suspenseful mood. Roderick is overcome by the fear that he isexperiencing and it affects every aspect of his life.
It is the constantpresence of fear that has caused his illness. He doesn’t know how or isunwilling to overcome these fears. The narrator suggests Roderick’s fears maybe directly linked to the house he is enchained by certain superstitiousimpressions in regard to the dwelling which he is tenanted, and from which formany years he never ventured forth(Poe, 125), implying that his condition mightbe relieved if he left the house and faced his fears. Because of fear, howeverhe is restrained from leaving and doesn’t attempt to overcome them. Therecurring concept of fear in the story shows it power and impact on humanity.Fear can be beneficial by restraining us from actions that can lead to harm ordanger.
Poe, however, takes this to the extreme by showing the negativeinfluences of fear. Fear can restrain us from actions that could be beneficial,and excessive fear can lead to insanity. He also shows that fear can be passedon to others, ultimately showing that we must recognize our fears to be able toovercome them.Death is Roderick Usher’s main fear. He is from a time honored andprestigious family. And he and his sister are the last of a long line ofdescendants.
Poe uses the concept of death and Roderick’s deteriorating mentalcondition in order to give a sense of foreboding and mystery to the story. Itis this premonition of something dreadful to come which surround the charactersof Roderick and Madeline as the story progresses. From the time the narratorsees Roderick his comments compare Roderick to death itself, saying that hisappearance indicates death. It is also as if Roderick foresees his forthcomingdeath and wishes to pass the time away with his friend so he would not go crazy.This theme of death seems to intertwine with the theme of freedom.
It seemed toRoderick Usher that death could be his only freedom. Because he was constrainedto the confines of his house and it turned him into a prisoner. Even in thenarrators words he viewed him as a slave of the house.
All Roderick wantedwas to be free from the “Daemon of Death”, and only death would free him fromhis insanity and the confines of his house.Poe’s graphic portrayal of imagery enhance every aspect of the story, fromthe suspense of the story itself, to the wild personalities of the charactersand the similarly morbid themes inherently present. Category: History