Fall of the House of Usher

Poes Fall
Edgar Allan Poes The Fall of the House of Usher is
clearly one of his most well known short stories. Well over a
hundred years after this story was written the basic elements of
fear are being used today in cinematic and written works. In
essence there are two elements that need to be understood to
understand this story; the plot of the story, and the critical
interpretations of tone and style to Poes story.


To understand any of the basic ideas of an story the reader
must understand the plot of a story. On a dull , dark, and
soundless day in the autumn of the year the narrator travels to
visit his boyhood companion, Roderick Usher. The House of
Usher looks out upon a black and lurid tarn and is surrounded by
decaying vegetation. The narrator is depressed and unnerved by
his melancholy surroundings. As he peers at the image of the
house in the water, he fancies there is an atmosphere peculiar to
the whole area, a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly
discernible, and leaden-hued. Before he enters the mansion he
notices that its entire front is covered by minute fungi. A valet
conducts him through intricate passages to the rooms of Roderick
Usher, whom he finds greatly changed. His complexion is
cadaverous, his eyes unusually bright, and he is suffering from
excessive nervous agitation. The morbid acuteness of his senses
makes him shun food, light and sound, except in their mildest
forms. His condition is complicated by the wasting away of his
sister Madeline who is slowly dying of an unknown disease. The
narrator attempts to relieve the melancholy of his friend. They
read and paint together, and Usher sometimes plays the guitar.
The narrator realizes that he cant cheer his friend who has
obviously entered on purpose a world of strange spiritual reality.
He and Madeline ar the last of his and the evil genius of the family
seems to demand that they investigate modes of being that are
unknown to other men. He accompanies his wild impromptus on
the guitar with rhymed lyrics. One of his poems, titled The
Haunted Palace, speaks of evil things which overthrow a kingdom
of wisdom and light. The Lady Madeline dies, and at Ushers
request his friend helps him to enter the coffin temporarily in
a vault in the basement of the mansion. They open the coffin for a
last look at the deceased and notice a faint blush upon the bosom
and the face, a charactreistic, the narrator tells us, of deaths sue to
catalepsies. In the days following the interment of his sister.
Roderick ignores his ordinary occupations and wanders through
the hose aimlessly. At times he appears to be listening in profound
attention to some sound that only he can hear. One stormy night
the narrator is unable to sleep to a window, and upon looking out
his friend perceives that a faintly luminous and distinctly visible
gaseous exhalation hangs about the mansion. In an effort to calm
the hypersensitive Roderick his friend reads to him, but is
interrupted by a knock at the door. Usher cries out that it is his
sister at the door, whom he knows they had put living in the tomb.
The Lady Madeline enters, bloody, and falls upon her brother who
dies of fright as they collapse to the floor. The narrator rushes
from the mansion, and as he is riding away there is a sound like
the voice of a thousand waters, and the House of Usher sinks
below the tarn.
The critical interpretations of how this story is told are
Important to give the reader a better understanding of the written
material. As we have seen, many critics have interpreted Poes
tales as projections of his own situation and character, and there is
undoubtedly some truth in this. Hervey Allen believes that the
description of Roderick Usher might be labeled Self Portrait of
the Artist at the Age of Thirty. Critics who agree with this
approach see in Ushers constitutional weakness a projection of
Poes indecisiveness and insecurity. They see in the strange curse
that has fallen upon Usher a projection of Poes feeling that he was
an outcast and damned by forces beyond his control. They see
repeated in Ushers unusual bond of sympathy with his sister,
Poes desire to have a woman as a perfect friend and companion
with whom he could share his fears and enthusiasms.
There is , however a limit to such an interpretation. The story
stands as an independent work of art without any reference to the
life of the author. The story has always been considered one of
Poes classics, and bears the characteristic marks of his
craftsmanship. The House of Usher itself, with its arches and dark
passageways. However, if Poe often used many of the standard
effects and props of the traditional horror story, he also added
many of his own. The sentient fungi and gaseous exhalation are
his own. Finally, it is the manner in which he handles his materials
that makes Poes tale so highly original. Everything is arranged so
that the final horror will be both believable and overwhelming.
Like any good showman, Poe knew how to keep his reader in
suspense. The Lady Madelines flushed cheek is the first
preparation for her eventual appearance at the door. Three times as
the narrator is reading to Usher a distant noise is heard, coming
closer each time, before the door is finally flung open upon the
final horror. A gradual unfolding of plot is the very best of Poes
art.

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Now with a better understanding of the writers view of the
story the reader can more closely relate to the characters thoughts
and actions. As through the plot, and the critical analysis towards
Edgar Allen Poes The Fall of the House of Usher.
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