The mind is a complicated thing. Not many stories are able to portray this in such an interesting manner as in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher". The haunting story of a man and his sister, living in the old family mansion. But as all should know, much symbolism can be found in most of Poe's works. "The Fall of the House of Usher" is no exception.
First of all, we have the symbolisme of Roderick Ushers mind and the House of Usher coinciding. Both can be seem as one and the same.
Residing in the house are both Roderick and his sister, Madeline. What can be translated from this is the age old hypothesis, the mind is divided in two parts: a male or rational part, and a female or emotionnal part. In Usher's mind, we can see that he has problems expressing his emotions, represented as Madeline's unknown sickness.
When she finally dies, Roderick puts her away in an old dungeon t'ill she is to be buried. One could say that Usher is trying to forget about his emotions by throwing that part of his mind into the basement, or subconcious. He knows that if he can survive a fortnight without this emotional part in him, he'll be able to live without it for the rest of his days.
Another symbol is the one of the fortnight. A fortnight is 14 days, or half a moon cycle. The full moon can be seen as another symbol for the unconcious mind or even the dark side in us all. Whereas a new moon represents the concious or good side in us all.
Madeline was locked away just at the beginning of the full moons half cycle. In other words, Roderick knew that this was the worst time for his sister to die, she could easily comeback, using the moons dark power.
Unfourtunatly, on the night of the full moon, or the wost night of turmoil for Usher's mind, Roderick's sister comes back from the dead to kill him. In other words, the one thing he wanted to get rid of comes back and puts an end to his already fragile mind.
Thia is why The House of Usher collapses and falls to ruins into the swampy pool in front of it. Basically, Usher's mind collapses right down the middle, just where the male and female parts of the mind are seperated.
Along with the swampy pool, the exterior of the house also plays a symbolic role in this story. The land around the house has a lack of colour and healthy vegetation. This can be said to represent Usher's surroundings. They are dark, plagued and hopeless. Perhaps these surroundings are the source of his depression, or perhaps only a part of it.
From afar, the house seems stable. Quite in good shape in fact, but upon closer inspection, it can be seen that the house's innards are rotten. The house, along with Usher's mind, are about to crumble.
Another resemblance between Roderick and his house is how the hair on his forhead seems to match the web work of eaves along the houses facade. These eaves, acting as a parasite, start from the top of the house and make there way down. In other words, this parasite, plaguing Usher's mind, started in his concious mind and worked it's way into his unconcious mind.
Roderick's thin pale lips can represent the thin line of life keeping him in check. His pale and cadaverous features resemble the dark and cold look of the house. All these images show us that Usher is not long for this world.
Near the end of the work, the narrator decides to tell Roderick a story to calm his soul and give him stregnth. During this time, Roderick is a nervous, paranoid wreck. He keeps saying that his sister will come back.
The book read by our narrator to Roderick tells the story of a knight on his way to see a magician of some sort. In his place, he finds a dragon he must slay. Once the dragon is down, our heros prize, a wonderfull sheild, falls to the ground instead of in the heros hands. In other words, the hero was to face his fear but failed in doing so correctly. That is why his prize, perhaps Usher's sane mind, falls to the floor.
This symbolism is also played in the "real world". The exact momment where the shield falls to the floor, a knock is heard on the chambers door. Roderick goes to answer it and uppon opening the door, Madeline is seen, blood all over her, lunging towards him. We can see then why he says she was buried alive. Ones capacity to express emotion, however bad it may be, is never truly dead, only forever sick.
"The Fall of the House of Usher". A good story by itself. An even better story if analysed correctly. The story of a man loosing his mind has rarely been presented so imaginatively. But this was only from one point of view. What other meanings can be pulled from this story? Perhaps it is the inner mind of a schitzophrenic, or even a legend told to scare little boys from hurting there sisters. They may just come back! Either way, This work is still worth reading. This paper is the property of NetEssays.Net Copyright 1999-2002
Edgar Allen Poe was an American writer that lived and wrote in the 19th century. Poe's writings are known for their macabre subject matter. The dark imagery in his "The Fall of the House of Usher" gives the reader an intense environment of pure terror to reside in while he is in the story, as well as giving him a view into the mind of Poe himself. In this story, Poe uses the life-like characteristics of an otherwise decaying house and other inanimate objects as a device for giving the house a very supernatural atmosphere. (Baym)
The first five paragraphs of the story present the arrival of the narrator and describe the House of Usher and its bleak surroundings. The narrator, who is a childhood companion of Roderick Usher's, arrives to find an old mansion with "the remodelled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the gastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows. (Poe 350)" His first view of the house comes in a large pool of tarn, or swampy, dead matter, surrounding the house. The narrator, who remains nameless throughout the story, immediately says that he is filled with "a sense of insufferable gloom. (Poe 350)" This is Poe's way of foreshadowing the dark, dreary conditions he is going to be displaying for the reader during the story. Poe emphasizes the tarn around the mansion several times in the opening paragraphs. The narrator compares the view of the house in the pool of tarn to "the after-dream of the reveller upon opium. (Poe 350)" He uses all his logic and reason to try and view everything he sees in a rational manner, yet upon looking over the house and its surroundings, he has a heightened sense of superstition. He goes on to say that, "about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity. (Baym)"
The narrator, upon entering the house, sees a typically furnished 19th century dwelling. However, he becomes confused as to why familiar objects such as the tapestries on the wall and the tall archways make him feel even more superstitious. He even describes the suits of armor on the walls as having a ghost- or phantom-like quality. The narrator sees this as the cause of the mental illness that Roderick told him about in the letter that he received summoning him there. The room also has books and musical instruments scattered all over it. These, however, fail to "give any vitality to the scene. (Poe 353)"
When the narrator first meets his host, Usher greets him very warmly, and the narrator sits with Usher silently for some time. While he sits there, he cannot believe hwo much he has been changed since they were childhood friends. Usher is described as "cadaverous of complexion, (Poe 354)" and has very thin and pallid lips, a nose of "a delicate Hebrew model, (Poe 354)" a finely molded chin, and very fine and thin hair that appears to not have been cut in ages. It has often been noted that Roderick Usher's features closely resemble those of Poe himself. (Bloom 19)
As the narrator's visit continues, he learns more of Usher's illness. First, he suffers from "a morbid acuteness of the senses. (Poe 354)" He cannot bear more than the most bland food; his clothing can only be textured in a certain way; all flowers have an unbearable odor to him; his eyes cannot handle any bright lights; his ears are hurt by any noises louder than the stringed instruments he is so fond of playing. He also suffers from severe paranoia. He is afraid of the results of any actions taken by himself or anyone else. He also believes that his house has a very supernatural quality. After Usher is finished talking about his illness, he tells his friend of his sister. While he is conversing with the narrator about her, she walks slowly across the far end of the room. The narrator is amazed at how much she resembles Roderick. She, while looking exactly like her brother, has the exact opposite illness. She suffers from cataleptical spells, which render her to appear dead and to lack any pulse.
The real action in the plot occurs when the narrator is asked by Roderick to help him place his recently deceased sister in a vault under the house for a fortnight(two weeks). Roderick requests this under the fear that she might be exumed by the sinister family doctor. The apparent death of Madeline plunges Roderick even further into the depths of insanity. He wanders the halls aimlessly at night, and he forgets his usual habits of music and art. To the narrator, Roderick seems like he is hiding some great secret. At this point in the story, the narrator begins to feel Roderick's condition starting to affect him. The narrator begins to lose sleep and stay very nervous. (Bloom 19)
One night, while the narrator is pacing back and forth across his room, he hears Roderick walking down the hallway. He knocks on the door and entered the narrator's room carrying the lamp. He has come to show the narrator a storm brewing outside the house. The narrator sees that this upsets him greatly and attempts to calm Roderick down as he is nearly hysterical. He reads Roderick a story out of the first book he picks up. It contains a story about a struggle between a knight and a dragon. As the narrator reads the story it mirrors some great struggle somewhere else in the house. The noises in the house are similar to the ones occuring in the house. It is soon discovered that the struggle is Madeline escaping from her tomb. Her superhuman desire to live leads her to force her way out of the vault and stagger to the upper chambers. In her death-throes, she lands on her brother, causing him to die of fright. The narrator escapes only to see the entire
house collapse behind him as its lone inhabitants die. (Bloom 19)
Throughout the story, Poe's imagery of the house and the inanimate objects inside serve to give a supernatural atmosphere to the story. By giving inanimate objects almost life-like characteristics, he is also giving the house a supernatural quality. The whole story centers around Poe's portrait of an insane man. He goes to great lengths to describe every detail of Roderick Usher's mental illness. Poe's description of Usher's face is very similar to his own features. This knowledge turns "The Fall of the House of Usher": a tale of the introverted, artistic soul tormented and unable to function in the ordinary world, into a brief glance into Poe's own struggles as a writer. This paper is the property of NetEssays.Net Copyright 1999-2002
Unity in Edgar Allan Poe's “The Fall of the House of Usher”
There is a remarkable unity of structure in Edgar Allan Poe's short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Every element in the tale is inextricably linked with the central image of the house itself and is thus linked, and ultimately identified with, every other element: including the Usher family, Roderick, Madeline and the narrator. Everything presented in the story evolves from the unity of this central symbol, expanding throughout the story, only to collapse back into oneness at the end of the tale.
The story begins with the narrator’s arrival at the House of Usher. As the narrator observes the house he considers what he knows of its inhabitants. The narrator captures the evolution of the Usher family. This family produced only one male heir in each generation, with the family mansion passing to that heir. As a result, the surrounding villagers began to perceive the house and the family as one. The reader is led to believe that the family built the house and the house evolved from the family. “Roderick Usher was convinced that his whole surroundings, the stones of the house, the fungi, the water in the tarn, the very reflected image of the whole, was woven into a physical oneness with the family, condensed, as it were, into one atmosphere—the special atmosphere in which alone the Ushers could live. And it was this atmosphere which had molded the destinies of his family” (Lawrence 378). Not only did the house become the “House of Usher,” as the narrator was to discover, but the house took on the resemblance of its heir, Roderick Usher.
As the narrator arrives at the house, he begins to form a mental picture of the house.
The narrator feels a sense of ‘insufferable gloom’ pervading his spirit. He pauses to look at the ‘mere house,’ trying to account rationally for its total weird effect. But the scene still produces in him ‘an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveler upon opium. . .an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart—an unredeemed dreariness of thought. . .it was a mystery all insoluble; nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered. (Thompson 88)
The now apprehensive narrator continues to the house to meet his boyhood friend, Roderick, whom he has not seen in many years. He is ushered through the house by the valet to Roderick’s studio. As he sits, he observes Roderick closely.
Roderick has changed dramatically in such a short period of time. Yet, at the same time the narrator notes these changes, he also is reminded of the remarkable, unfaded character of Roderick’s face. His face is such a contrast of remembered features, altered to so great a degree.
Usher’s face has a generally decayed aspect, like the house itself, but especially noticeable are his large and luminous eyes and his hair ‘of more than web-like softness and tenuity.’ This tangled, ‘web-like,’ ‘silken hair,’ of a ‘wild gossamer texture,’ thus imagistically merges the facelike structure of the house with Usher’s face, the ‘arabesque expression’ of which the narrator cannot ‘connect with any idea of simple humanity. (Thompson 93)
Maurice Beebe, emphasizes the physical similarity of the house with Roderick: The ‘wild inconsistency’ between the house’s ‘perfect adaptation of parts, and the crumbling condition of the individual stones’ is the ‘inconsistency’ which arises from Roderick’s ‘feeble and futile struggle to overcome an habitual trepidancy.’ The crack in the building corresponds to Roderick’s struggle against insanity, his effort to maintain his composure against what may be called the ‘kingdom of inorganization. (153)
David Herbert Lawrence goes so far as to explain: “. . .it is no surprise to find that the Usher mansion has ‘vacant eye-like windows,’ and that there are mysterious physical sympathies between Roderick Usher and the house in which he dwells. The House of
Usher is, in allegorical fact, the physical body of Roderick Usher, and its dim interior is, in fact, Roderick Usher’s visionary mind” (edt. in Wilbur 264).
To understand the relationship of the house to the narrator, it is important to first understand the relationship of the narrator to Roderick. As the narrator stands at the very edge of the tarn, looking into the reflection of the house, he remembers Roderick’s letter and the fact that he was Roderick’s close and only friend. He also considers the nature of the letter and the reasons given for Roderick’s request. “It was the manner in which all this, and much more, was said—it was the apparent heart that went with his request—which allowed me no room for hesitation; and I accordingly obeyed forthwith what I still considered a very singular summons” (Poe 1158). During the next several days of the narrator’s visit, Roderick switches between a gifted and creative maniac and a foreseer of doom. Roderick discusses his impressions of his illness and his superstitions, and these begin to greatly influence the narrator.
As Roderick explains his fears to the narrator, the narrator begins to experience those same fears himself. He begins to share the illusions that Roderick experiences as
his own. “It is Usher, for example, who remarks to the suggestible narrator that the house is alive and has exerted a malignant influence on his mind” (Thompson 92). Patrick Quinn, in his article, “The French Face of Edgar Poe,” describes the narrator’s experiences as he arrives at the House of Usher. “The narrator of this story does not come upon the conditions of everyday life at Usher’s house. Rather the reverse: he has left everyday life behind him when he enters upon a scene in which decay and death are the presiding elements. His lapse is into a dreamlike state, and a hideous veil has been let down rather than removed” (317).
The longer the narrator associates with Roderick, the more he realizes “the futility of all attempt at cheering a mind from which darkness, as if an inherent positive quality, poured forth upon all objects of the moral and physical universe, in one unceasing radiation of gloom” (Poe 1161). After Madeline’s death and interment, Roderick begins to change. The narrator observes:
“At times, again, I was obliged to resolve all into a mere inexplicable vagaries of madness, for I beheld him gazing upon vacancy for long hours, in an attitude of the profoundest attention, as if listening to some imaginary sound. It was no wonder that his condition terrified—that it infected me. I felt creeping upon me, by slow yet certain degrees, the wild influences of his own fantastic yet impressive superstitions. (Poe 1166).
In the concluding pages of the tale, a storm arrives. The narrator attempts to calm Roderick by reading from the “Mad Trist.” The narrator becomes so involved with the
reading that he starts to associate the sounds in the story with the sounds emanating from under his bedroom—“I did actually hear. . .a low and apparently distant, but harsh, protracted, and most unusual screaming or grating sound—the exact counterpart of what my fancy had already conjured up for the dragon’s unnatural shriek as described by the romancer” (Poe 1168).
In a sense, the narrator has become Roderick . In this strange and gloomy atmosphere, with madness and death surrounding him, the narrator’s mind, if not already mad, is very near it. Richard Wilbur goes so far as to suggest, “The extreme decay of the House of Usher—a decay so extreme as to approach the atmospheric—is quite simply a sign that the narrator, in reaching that state of mind which he calls Roderick Usher, has very nearly dreamt himself free of his physical body, and of the material world with which that body connects him” (266). If we can believe that Roderick and the narrator are one, sharing madness, and the House of Usher evolved from the Usher family as one, then the narrator and the house are one.
In the image of the house as skull or death’s-head and the merging of the narrator’s face with the face of the house which is also Usher’s face in the pool, we see once again in Poe the subtly ironic paralleling of the narrative structure of the tale to its visual focal point. . .it is clear that we do not know that anything the narrator has told us is ‘real,’ the whole tale and its structures may be the fabrication of the completely deranged mind of the narrator. Nothing at all may have happened in a conventional sense in the outside world—only in the inner world of the narrator’s mind. (Thompson 110)
Even if we believe this tale is all a figment of the narrator’s mind, yet what of the relationship between Madeline and the narrator and Roderick to Madeline which is important to the storyline?
Roderick and Madeline are identical twins and the “sympathies of a scarcely intelligible nature had always existed between them” (Poe 1165). This passage suggests that when one was ill the other one shared her pain and suffering. They have grown up in the same house and, for reasons not fully explained, remained in the house for their entire lives.
His sister Madeline does not relieve his isolation; paradoxically, she intensifies it, for they are twins whose ‘striking similitude’ and ‘sympathies of a scarcely intelligible nature’ eliminate that margin of difference which is necessary to social relationship between persons. They are not two persons, but one consciousness in two bodies, each mirroring the other, intensifying the introversion of the family character. (Abel 180)
Shortly after the narrator arrives at Roderick’s chambers, he listens to Roderick discuss his sister. While Roderick is describing Madeline’s ailment and his own fear of being left as the last descendant to the House of Usher, Madeline appears:
“While he spoke, the lady Madeline (for so was she called) passed slowly through a remote portion of the apartment, and, without having noticed my presence, disappeared. I regarded her with an utter astonishment not unmingled with dread—and yet I found it impossible to account for such feelings. A sensation of stupor oppressed me, as my eyes followed her retreating steps”(Poe 1161).
Roderick explains that his sister is dying of a disease which the doctors are unable to diagnose. One of the symptoms of the disease is catalepsy. After the narrator’s first
encounter with Madeline, she seems to give up her fight against the disease and takes to her bed. During the following days, Roderick paints a small picture which is described in the story in detail:
“A small picture presented the interior of an immensely long and rectangular vault or tunnel, with low walls, smooth, white, and without interruption or device. Certain accessory points of the design served well to convey the idea that this excavation lay at an exceeding depth below the surface of the earth. No outlet was observed in any portion of its vast extent, and no torch, or other artificial source of light, was discernible; yet a flood of intense rays rolled throughout, and bathed the whole in a ghastly and inappropriate splendour” (Poe 1162).
When Madeline dies and Roderick decides to bury her within the house, the reader discovers that the picture Roderick painted in actuality is a picture of Madeline’s vault (Tate 385).
After Madeline is interred in the downstairs vault, Roderick’s “ordinary manner had vanished. His ordinary occupations were neglected or forgotten. He roamed from chamber to chamber with hurried, unequal, and objectless step. The pallor of his countenance had assumed, if possible, a more ghastly hue—but the luminousness of his eye had utterly gone out. The once occasional huskiness of his tone was heard no more; and a tremulous quaver, as if of extreme terror, habitually characterized his utterance. There were times, indeed, when I thought his unceasingly agitated mind was laboring with some oppressive secret, to divulge which he struggled for the necessary courage” (Poe, 1165-66).
Roderick, in the innermost recesses of his mind, understands that a part of him has died or that he has killed a part of himself by destroying Madeline. Roderick and Madeline start life as one and at the end of the story, end life as one.
Poe’s dramatic conclusion to the story portrays the unity of the tale in a symbolic fashion. Just as Madeline and Roderick started life as one egg inside their mother’s womb, in the final breath of life, they collapse as one in death. But Poe is not done. As Madeline and Roderick become one, so does the House of Usher become one with them. For without an Usher descendent, the house could not remain. The total unity of the story is complete.
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Edgar Allen Poe's Fall of the House of Usher is similar to his other works in that it contains several of his distinguishing characteristics. Poe's writings are very dark. They contain some aspect of evil, supernatural occurrences, death, etc. Poe uses imagery and symbolism as clues to how the story will progress. It is likely that one could go through the entire story line-by-line and find at least one symbol or image that would hint as to where this story will lead. In this essay I will discuss the different ways in which Poe uses imagery in Fall of the House of Usher.
The first line of the story paints a dark and foreboding atmosphere:
"During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher". (335)
This first line also leaves many clues as to how the story will progress.One can sense that something negative is going to happen. The day is described as "dull, dark, and soundless"; this has a connotation of death. The lack of sound represents a lack of life. The heavens are described as hanging low, which means that death was near. The fact that the story takes place in autumn is no coincidence. In autumn trees go into a dormant, almost death-like state, much like the catatonic trance that Lady Madeline succumbs to. In another respect, autumn is commonly referred to as fall because leaves fall off trees, Poe could be alluding to the subsequent fall of the house of Usher.
Poe uses imagery in a different way when he describes the Usher house. The words he uses make the house seem like it is alive or perhaps has supernatural powers. Either way, the house is treated as something to be feared. As the narrator describes the scene, one can almost sense his fear; "I looked upon the scene before me, upon the mere house and the simple landscape features of the domain, upon its bleak walls, upon the vacant eye-like windows, upon a few rank sedges, and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees…" (335). The narrator gives the house human characteristics, referring to its windows as "vacant" and "eye-like". He also makes it appear as an almost over-powering negative presence, like a demon that will be difficult to escape.
Once he enters the house, the narrator sees the inside of the house as well as the strange way in which the people living there behave. He describes the atmosphere inside the house:
"an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn; pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued" (336).
The narrator sees the interior of the house as uninviting as the exterior. When he says the atmosphere had no affinity with the air of heaven, he is saying that the interior of the house is much like hell. Again he mentions silence, which would indicate a lack of life, which is also made evident by the smell of decay (from the trees). He uses words such as "dull", "sluggish", and "leaden-hued" which paint the picture of an almost crushing presence within the house of Usher.
Poe's use of imagery in Fall of the House of Usher is a tribute to his literary genius. He is able to invoke emotions through images a lone. He is able to describe as well as give hints as to the course the story will take. Even if the reader does not know the specifics, they the reader can get a feeling of impending doom or catastrophe as found in Fall of the House of Usher. There are few authors who can invoke fear as Edgar Allen Poe does. This story is an excellent example of how he uses imagery.
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In the story “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allen Poe, setting is
used to portray many different things. Poe uses setting to suggest ideas,
effects, and images. It creates a mood and foreshadows future events.
Poe communicates facts about the characters through symbols
throughout the setting. In the story the narrator is going to the House of
Usher to comfort his friend, Roderick Usher who has fallen into a mental
depression. These negative influences ultimately lead to death in the
end. The story revolves around the effects of fear and how the denial of
our fears can lead to madness. #
The narrator is immediately skittish about the house and its occupants.
As he approaches the house, “with the first glimpse of the building, a
sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit.”(Poe 21) The entire
opening scene was gloomy as if he’d stepped into blackness. He
describes the house as having “vacant eye-like windows upon a few rank
sedges and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees with an utter
depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more
properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium” (Poe 21). He
sees the image of the house as if it were a large a skull and we can sense
fear starting to invade the narrators mind. As he encounters his friend for
the first time in many years he is shocked Roderick’s appearance. He
describes him as having “A cadaverousness of complexion; an eye large,
liquid, and luminous beyond comparison; lips somewhat thin and very
pallid, but of a surpassingly beautiful curve”. (Poe 25) It was as if he was
staring death in the face and he felt, “startled and even awed”(Poe 26)
at the sight of Usher. Roderick Usher had a twin sister named Madeline
who also resided in the mansion, although the narrator only caught
glimpses of her passing through the halls he, “regarded her with utter
astonishment not unmingled with dread”. From his arrival at the house to
the end of the story the narrator experiences a heightening of fear
towards the mansion and its occupants.
Upon the receipt of Roderick’s letter the narrator is moved by the plea
of his only friend. He expressed “an earnest desire to see him, as his best
and indeed his only friend”.(Poe 22) They were friends not out of the loved
they shared for each other, but out of convenience. Poe writes,
“Although, as boys, we had been even intimate associates, yet I really
knew little of my friend.”(Poe 22) They both had no other friends to speak
of and shared the characteristics of darkness and gloom, and were both
excessively reserved. The poem “Alone” by Edgar Allan Poe best
describes the fear of loneliness the narrator experiences, “And all I loved -
I loved alone -. Then - in my childhood, in the dawn. Of a most stormy life
- was drawn.” Although the narrator knows little about Roderick he refers
to him as his best friend to cope with his fear of being alone. He is
intrigued with the Ushers family history and is drawn towards him for the
sake of excitement and adventure.
Roderick introduces the narrator into the world he has created while
being secluded inside the mansion for years. He shares that the books he
reads are about death, magic, medieval torture, and poetry. All of these
things show that Roderick is unstable and obsessed with death. As they
become reacquainted several days pass he informs the narrator that
Madeline has passed on. Madeline’s death leaves Roderick the last of
the Ushers and in great depression. Roderick and the narrator place her
body in a vault that “was small, damp, and entirely without means of
admission for light; lying, at great depth, immediately beneath that
portion of the building in which was my own sleeping apartment.”(Poe 33)
The narrator is not at all concerned with the location of her body and
goes along with Roderick’s request. Edgar Allan Poe’s House of Usher
writes it is, “Not altogether insignificant that Madeline’s burial chamber is
located beneath what the narrator describes as, “my own sleeping
compartment”. The narrator mentions a dream earlier concerning his
perceptions of the house. Could the whole experience have been a
To settle Roderick’s mind the narrators reads him a story the “Mad
Trist” of Sir Launcelot Canning that lets all the madness loose. As he reads
the story, “No sooner had these syllables passed my lips, than as if a shield
of brass had indeed, at the moment, fallen heavily upon a floor of silver.”
(Poe 39) The narrator immediately panicked and Roderick sits still with no
reaction. He proceeded to read the story and as he read the scrapping
of the doors Madeline appeared at the doors. They had prematurely
buried her and the narrator had noticed “a faint blush upon the bosom
and the face” (Poe 34) but did and said nothing and continued with
Roderick’s request. It is becomes apparent that the narrator is no longer
just a passive witness but an accomplice. As Madeline entered the room
she “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.” (Poe 40) The narrator shows us that
fear can restrain us from actions that could be beneficial and how fear
can be passed on to others , from Roderick to the narrator. He studied all
of Roderick’s fears closely, meanwhile he was ignoring his own.
The narrator was in search of fulfilling his fear of loneliness and his want
for adventure through Roderick’s life. It is suggested throughout the story
that the events taking place are merely dreams, fragments of the
narrators imagination. Poe writes that the image of the house “must have
been a dream, I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building.”
There are also several references made to the hallucinations being
induced to the use of opium. It could also be possible that Roderick was
the narrators alter ego. As stated in Edgar Allan Poe’s House of Usher , “In
meeting Usher, the narrator is symbolically staring into the face of his
psychological double”. Poe shows us that excessive fear can lead to
insanity. As the narrator quickly fled the house and looked back to see
the House of Usher sink out of sight. The collapse of the house is symbolic
to the collapse of the narrators mind. Ultimately the story shows us that
we must recognize our fears to be able to overcome them. This paper is the property of NetEssays.Net Copyright 1999-2002