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Essay/Term paper: The fall of the house of usher

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Edgar Allen Poe

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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
isolated.(Buranelli,63)
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,
1979

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"
http://www.en.utexas.edu/~mmaynard/Poe/Supernat.html



 

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