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The fall of the house of usher

Casey Ochs Ochs1

Ms. Miller

The Fall of the House of Usher

The Fall of the House of Usher is acclaimed as one of Edgar Allan Poe's greatest works. Poe

uses Symbolism and analogies in both characters and setting to tell this gothic tale of death and

downfall. He often drew apoun memory for the setting of his stories. He combines atmosphere

and analogy to form the setting which provokes to the reader a sense of insufferable gloom. Too

much of the horror has been attributed to its setting. But the setting does have a double

impotance, discriptive and symbolic. Poe introduces planlife in its most rudimentary form,

underscoring the miasmic elements in the tale. The story connects plot and setting so that they

seem one. From the first sentence to the last, the mood of desolation and impending doom never

leaves. Poe used the principal of analogy very effectively in House of Usher. Finding an

identical pattern in each the house and the family, he makes the events in the book being read

correspond to those going on in the house. The entire opening scene is steeped in blackness and

melancholy.(Neilson, 197, Buranelli, 62)

Another of Poe's writing techniques is anima. Anima is giving a character qualities of having

an animal spirit. Madeline Usher is the anima figure in the story Poe's use of symbolism in his

gothic stories is a guiding thread to his literary art. That he is not persistently a symbolist is one

of his strengths, for it means that he only turns to symbolism when it has a distinct role to play.

His symbolism generally takes the form of allowing some object to stand for an abstraction or

personal attribute. Five persons figure into this tale, but the interest centers exclusively in one-

RoderickUsher.(Levine, 125, Buranelli 85)

Roderick, cadaverous eyes, large liquid and luminous beyond comparison. His lips are very

thin and pale. Usher suffered from a morbid acuteness of the senses; the most

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insipid food was alone bearable; he could wear only garments of a certain texture; the odors of

all flowers were oppressive; his eyes were tortured by even the faintest light. The characters also

show gothic tendencies. Just as Usher simultaneously exploits and loathes his disease, he longs

for death and at the same time fears it.

at the same time fears it. Roderick is himself a symbol of isolation, and of a concentration of

vitality so introverted that it utterly destroys itself. He is physically


Madeline Usher, Roderick's twin sister is given to trances and sleepwalking and is completely

unaware of the world surrounding her, even the visitor's presence in the family home.

Madeline's cataleptic condition affects Roderick deeply. He sees her wandering about the house,

her physical being, as well as her psychological being decaying daily, but he does nothing about

it. It is Madeline, the anima figure, who has been Roderick's companion for many years, and He

has kept alive this psychologically incestuous relationship. Madeline takes the initiative to bring

an end to the negative and destructive union of souls.(Knapp, 139)

Clearly, the supernatural happenings in this story are unreal and so must be seen as symbolic.

The gloomy appearance of the house gives it a supernatural atmosphere that gives the house life-

like characteristics. The narrator describes the house as resembling the image of a face or a skull

with eye-like windows, and hair of fungus. The reader knows that a house can't just split apart,

therefore it must be seen as symbolic. A symbol of the death of both Roderick and Madeline

Usher.(MacAndrew, 196, Neilson,197)

The happenings which are not supernatural are Roderick's illogical and irrational behavior.

The most interesting one of these events is the burial of his sister Madeline in the vault. "The

tradgedy is so far from being gratuitous or a matter of erratic desire that

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both the family and the family mansion are foredoomed to destruction." Madeline is not dead.

He buries his sister alive in hope that she suffocates, then he will move her to the family grave

yard. Elizabeth MacAndrew quotes, "It is an obvious rule of art that effects should be made to

spring as directly as possible from their causes." This is true, although Madeline is dead, she is

not entirely gone. She comes from her interred casket to seek

vengeance on her brother, who sought to rid himself of her, to entomb her prematurely. She

haunted the soul of Roderick. Madeline and Roderick are almost two faculties of the same soul,

of which the mansion is their body.

The Usher family and the Usher mansion are analogous-stained with time, used up,

crumbling within, ready to collapse. The narrator describes the house as ready to crumble to the

ground, therefore there must be something supernatural holding it up. "The symbolic analogies

reinforce one another in a steely web of cause and effects." (MacAndrew, 197)

Madeline kills Roderick and the Usher Mansion splits in hlaf, falls to ruins with the joining of

it's two last representatives. The final collapse of this gothic house is melodramatically

spotlighted by the blood-red moon, which now shone vividly through that once barely

preceptible fissure. This ends both the suffering of the characters, as well as the house. The Fall

of the House of Usher is a mosaic of incidents, psychological attitudes, and symbols all

cemented into place in a unified structureaccording to the prescription of an exacting and skillful

art, that is Edgar Allan Poe.(Neilson, 100)

Works Cited

Buranelli, Vincent Edgar Allan Poe Boston, Twayne Publishing, 1977

Knapp, L. Bettina Edgar Allan Poe New York, Fredrick Ungar Publishing company, 1984

Levin, Harry The Power of Blackness New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1967

Levine, Stuart Edgar Allan Poe: Seer and craftsman, Deland, Everett / Edwards, inc. 1972

MacAndrew, Elizabeth The Gothic Tradition in Fiction, New York, Columbia University Press,


Neilson, Keith Master Plots; volume 4 Englewood Cliffs, Salem Press, 1985

The Norton Anthology of American Literature W. W. Noton and company, 1995

"Imagery of The Supernatural in The Fall of the House of Usher"

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