The Fall of the House of Usher
The Plot and Composition of The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Poe
As he does with such a significant number of his short stories, Poe introduces ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ with a pertinent cited section: ‘Child Coeur est un luth suspendu; Sitôt qu’on le touche il résonne’. From a lyric by French verse artist Pierre Jean de Beranger, the refrain deciphers generally as: ‘His heart is a hanging lute [an old stringed instrument]; Whenever one contacts it, it reverberates’. Aside from the significance of stringed instruments in the story – Roderick Usher can stand the sound of no different clamors – the entry addresses one of the story’s most significant subjects, mortality.
That the heart in the lyrics is identified with a melodic instrument, which requires the dash of a hand to work, underlines its very delicacy. Suspended in the air, it can’t work alone, however, it rather requests to be ‘played’. The very meaning of invigorating articles is that they proceed onward their drive; undoubtedly, development is one of the highlights most regularly connected with creature life. The capacity to create sound is a component of further developed creatures.
However, Roderick Usher is persuaded that the lifeless universe is loaded with ‘awareness,’ that dead articles or matter, for example, the ‘environment’ he depicts surrounding his house, are blessed with faculties and maybe even existence of their own. At the point when Poe presents this idea, it appears to be very nearly a diversion. The chief circular segment of the account has been Usher’s franticness, his dread of what he views as his very own inescapable fate. Instead of a window into his tormented mind, as given by the unusual painting of the vault or the ad-libbed tune of the ‘Spooky Palace,’ the scholarly quest for ‘consciousness’ appears to be a projection into the external world, as if Usher is attempting to consume his psyche with an option that is other than himself.
At that point, Madeline passes on, and everything changes. In any event, when the Narrator and Usher cover her in the vault, the Narrator noticed ‘the joke of a swoon redden upon the chest and the face, and that suspiciously waiting grin upon the lip which is so awful in death’. It is as though Madeline were at that point taunting passing (or is somehow or another still alive), and as if she is as of now deriding her sibling and his companion. It is conceivable to state that she has the last snicker, breaking free from the vault and executing the raving Roderick- – if this incongruity were not all that nerve-racking and heartbreaking.
What is especially captivating about this twisted restoration is that Poe at last credits similar attributes to Madeline: ‘There was blood upon her white robes and the proof of some unpleasant battle upon each segment of her starved edge’. Compare this sentence to the primary depiction of the infected lady as observed by the Narrator: ‘The woman Madeline … gone gradually through a remote bit of the condo, and, without having seen my essence, vanished’. Poe’s account decisions are worth investigation, and it is telling that he states ‘vanished’ without recommending any extra development. She was presented with an abrupt disappearing like an apparition, and she is never observed ‘alive’ until she returns after her internment – except if she is currently a genuine, exemplified phantom.
Following the advancement of Madeline through the story, one rapidly takes note of that in life she is much the same as a coasting starving stray, effectively a sort of nebulous vision, while once got away from the grave she lets out ‘a low, groaning cry’ and falls ‘intensely internal’ upon her sibling, murdering him in a split second. Demise invigorates her that life didn’t. In like manner, the clamors that constantly go with the Narrator’s perusing of the ‘Distraught Trist’ are the main sounds Madeline ever makes in the story – recommending that she has needed to battle forcefully to escape the vault. It is as though, permeated with the power of movement and the capacity to create sound, Madeline becomes ‘alive’ simply after she was covered in the vault.
This inquisitive improvement may help disclose Roderick’s abnormal choice to briefly cover his sister in the vault. All through the story, Usher is overpowered with his very own feeling looming destruction: ‘I feel that the period will eventually show up,’ he tells the Narrator, ‘when I should surrender life and reason together, in some battle with the horrid ghost, FEAR’. By burying Madeline, he makes that very ‘bleak apparition’ with which he will battle until the very end – his prediction becomes inevitable. In this way, similarly, as the Narrator’s perusing of the ‘Distraught Trist’ appears to gather or summon the odd clamors from beneath, so ushers make his passing. The vault wherein he covers Madeline echoes the one he paints, another example of extraordinary premonition; yet on the off chance that one thinks about the vault as less grave than a position of birth, less a tomb than a belly, at that point, Roderick takes care of Madeline inside to at long last give her another life. If he comprehended what he was doing, it would be a motion of obedient love. Madeline has gotten one of the ‘vegetable things’ that Usher is persuaded to have consciousness. Or on the other hand, maybe, he accidentally allows the intensity of consciousness to her, similar to an eventual Frankenstein restoring his lost adored one.
Coming back to the canvas of the vault, it is critical to take note of the bizarre light the Narrator depicts: ‘No outlet was seen in any part of [the vault’s] huge degree, and no light or other fake wellspring of light was noticeable, yet a surge of extraordinary beams moved all through’. From where does this light start? While demise is related to obscurity, life is connected to light, and accordingly, this painted vault may hold traces of nurturing origination – a fresh start as opposed to just an end.
The ideas of the vault and untimely entombment are urgent to Poe’s oeuvre. ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ recounts to the tale of a man who unleashes vengeance on another by securing him a basement and building a divider over him. In ‘The Tell-Tale Heart,’ the Narrator finds (or frantically accepts) that the core of the elderly person he killed and covered under his sections of flooring is as yet thumping. ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ comes full circle inside an austere chamber, the dividers of which gradually contract before almost pulverizing the hero. Different stories including bodies in vaults and dividers or the dread of being covered alive incorporate ‘The Black Cat’ and the relevantly titled ‘The Premature Burial’. It was maybe less an instance of claustrophobia than interest with the barely recognizable difference among life and demise that roused these flights of extravagant. Roderick Usher, at that point, may fill in as Poe’s change sense of self, a surrogate for the creator’s horrible fixation on ‘consciousness’ and ‘the horrid ghost’.
Different translations of ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ have concentrated on the Narrator himself, who appears to be gradually to slip into franticness, maybe through the very procedure of portraying Usher’s psychological breakdown. Key minutes incorporate the opening entry, wherein the Narrator appears to be alarmed of seeing the house itself; the powerlessness to rest close to the finish of the story; and the last, last, about whole-world destroying however surely a representative picture of the housebreaking separated. Once in a while has Poe’s composing veered into a dream more expressly than in the end lines of his most renowned story: ‘While I looked, this crevice quickly augmented – there came a savage breath of the tornado – the whole sphere of the satellite burst on the double upon my sight- – my cerebrum reeled as I saw the powerful dividers surging in half – there was a long and wild yelling sound like the voice of a thousand waters- – and the profound and moist pool at my feet shut grimly and quietly over the pieces of ‘The House of Usher”.
The most intense of clamors to the most profound of quiets, a huge development crumbling as though it were made of sticks, the entire endeavor sinking to what may be deciphered as damnation: this symbolism is over the top, without a doubt. However, it is a purposeful language that accomplishes more than express the Narrator’s understanding and perhaps his psychological state. It likewise reviews the Narrator’s depictions of Usher’s compositions prior to the story, wherein he takes note of ‘power of heinous wonder, no shadow of which felt I ever yet in the consideration of the unquestionably shining yet too solid dreams of Fuseli’. In a specific sense, the Narrator has become an Usher by the story’s nearby, embracing Roderick’s eye and seeing his reality. This is a fellowship that has joined the Narrator to the maniac as opposed to gave a lot of rational soundness to him. Poe’s story may along these lines be perused as a purposeful anecdote of recognizable proof: the two parts of a split cognizance rejoining, the sane and the nonsensical getting one and the equivalent – with the silly overwhelming the normal.
By the by, there is constantly a naturalistic clarification for the potentially powerful occasions. Maybe Madeline is a risky phantom, or possibly she truly fought out of the vault. The house self-destructs, all things considered, in the undoubtedly way, following the current crevice. The happenstances of the boisterous sounds may just be incidents.
That give-and-take, the logic between the excellent and the shocking, among astonishment and fear, advises not simply ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ however Poe’s work when all is said in done. There is for sure a beautiful quality to his composition, regardless of whether it be the utilization of the ‘Spooky Palace’ as a representation for the psyche – attacked by ‘fiendish things, in robes of distress’- – or the portrayal of the House of Usher as though it was a human face, with its ’empty eye-like windows’. The Narrator depicts, from the get-go in the story, ‘an unredeemed inauspiciousness of thought which no prodding of the creative mind could torment into nothing of the brilliant’. Yet, that is correctly what Poe’s creative mind did: it took the troubling, the dim, the repulsive – and found inside it the glorious.
Literary Devices Used by Edgar Poe to Depict Decay in the Fall of the House of Usher
The Usher mansion is transformed into the lifeless counterpart of the inhabitants. It is a symbol and a valuable character that makes the transition between the realm of the dead and that of the living creatures; it symbolizes death and decomposition. Its walls are encapsulating and suffocating the Usher twins, bringing the fall both inwardly and outwardly. Poe transforms the archetype of the Jungian womb and maternal figure into a cold container that soon will destroy its “objects”, like a furnace.
Madness contaminates Edgar Allan Poe’s narrative from within. When the narrator observes the House from afar, his countenance and his spirit become poisoned with “an utter depression” and “insufferable gloom”. Although his mind attempts to exercise resistance, he finds that he is unable to keep the menacing presence of the house away. The “mansion of gloom”, with its “vacant and eye-like windows”, becomes the fourth character of the gothic novella. It inspires fear and gloom only by its architectural form: “an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart — an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime”. (pg. 116) Thus, the real terror of Poe’s literary construction is not the bundle of terrible elements that reside in the descriptive passages, but the idea of a sickening House that can curdle the capacity of the imagination of an individual. Once inside the house, the anonymous narrator suffers an ellipsis of spirits, like that of Roderick, and becomes a slave of the House, complying to the madness within his friend. The unhealthiness of the text is shown through various relations: the House and the twins, the narrator and Roderick, Roderick and Madeline, the narrator, and the House. Roderick Usher himself confesses to his friend a feeling that his malady is the consequence of his dwelling in the ancestral mansion. The tale’s representation of disease draws a clear link between the physical part and the psychological — a relationship between mind and matter.
Lady Madeline represents the reconciliation of Madness and Incestuous bonds. Even though she appears only three times throughout the text, the female instance is by far the most interesting character in all of Poe’s writings. She is used in the form of an aesthetic effect with which the writer traps the reader and renders him unable to look away. It’s nauseating. The passages in which Lady Madeline appears draw upon a distinct ethereal and vampiric atmosphere. Again, the double is one of the “specific elements of Poe’s lyrical and narrative patterns” (anca peiu pg 44). Psychologically, the aspect of the Twins (the Gemini, the Dioscuri) is a very fascinating subject, especially when talking about male and female siblings. In Freudian psychoanalysis, the Uncanny is usually mentioned when talking about the mental state of twins. Poe uses the Uncanny in several instances as a literary trope for the purpose of mystery and confusion. He plays with the six senses of the reader, making him feel a picture (the foreshadowing of the tomb painting that the narrator briefly describes when in the House) and to feel Roderick’s decomposing yells. We can also perceive an uncanny element in the maladies of the two siblings. There has been much academic analysis on the illness of Roderick and Madeline Usher, but their symptoms align mostly with a genetic disease — hence the incestuous undertone of the tale. Thus, the word “porphyria” describes a group of genetically inherited diseases that affect the skin and the nervous system. In “The Fall of the House of Usher” the symptoms of Roderick and Madeline are mostly neurotic, also showing physical signs on the skin, as seen from a description of the phantom Lady Madeline. The singular disease, then, is part of the grand mechanism of the destruction of history — of the line of the royal Ushers.
Concluding the first part of my critical essay, Edgar Allan Poe’s novella shifts Gothic terror through the usage of themes such as madness, history, incestuous love, disease, and decay, allowing the effects of the composition to deepen their roots into the reader’s mind and creating a kind of horror that builds up through foreshadowing and inward struggles, not only dusty graveyards and bad omens of romantic literature.
To make a solid and better connection between the visual part of the reading and the text, a brief definition of the chosen artistic medium is necessary. Thus, a linocut is a printmaking technique and a variant of woodcut, that involves the engraving of a piece of linoleum, or rubber, with sharp tools, such as “U” or “V” shaped gouges. The technique allows artists to make several prints of the same design, all the while having the original work as a “stamp”. Printmaking has been around for a couple of decades actually, but the concept of engraving on a simpler surface than wood, mainly on linoleum or rubber, is fairly new. The printmaking is done in a singular color, hence, when the print is ready, the paper would only have black and white (the color of the paper). This combination tends to add a more dramatic, if not, gothic vibe to the artwork. As Edgar Allan Poe’s novella is branded with a Gothic and dramatic atmosphere, I found it perfect to use printmaking to illustrate my rendition of his themes and to show the colors he uses to emphasize psychological and physical decline. Apart from linocut, the final artwork will also contain minor areas of oil painting, that will add details to the visual interpretation and will enhance the meanings behind every little element.
As mentioned in the earlier part of this essay, the House of Usher plays a major role throughout the text. Its physical decomposition is seen by the anonymous narrator at the beginning of the narrative and also at the end when the finalization of the deconstruction occurs. I transformed the idea of the House into a black form that roughly resemblances the geometrical drawings on Victorian book covers. The Victorian inspiration for the movements of the forms in my print help provides a better atmosphere and a connection between the text and the artwork. This geometrical form is engraved with asymmetric parts. The upper part of the structure is more “full” and linear. Opting for the fullness of the curved lines, that I decided to sketch for the female part of the design, the form of the “bank”, on which the sibling’s rest, symbolizes both Madeline’s tomb and the House. The idea here is the transition between the siblings’ halves. On Madeline’s part, the structure oozes femininity and plenitude, reminiscent of the psychological counterpart of the character, the id, and Madeline’s dominant personality through the narrative. Whilst the upper part is barely deconstructed, the lower region of the print, where Roderick’s body resides, is broken into pieces, following a rhythm of gradual descent. This breaking depiction arises from Poe’s exploitation of the decaying element and of the compulsive madness. The gradual descent in the drawing represents the fall into lunacy and the apparition of psychological tremors. The pieces that fall are both the physical fragments of the Usher mansion —the “crumbling condition of the individual stones” (pg 118) — and the segments of Roderick’s disturbed mind. Together with the asymmetry, the segments emphasize the status of each character. Lady Madeline, the id, is the wild part and the dominant and physical half of the doublet, while Roderick is the ego, the malleable and frail another half. Also to be noted here is the interesting idea of the gender traits that are switched: maleness is infected with hypersensitivity and melancholy while femaleness acts as the dangerous and aggressive element in the novella.
Continuing to follow the visual part of this essay, we shall observe that there are branches full of leaves peeking out from the sides and top of the black structure; a couple of them resemble the fallen segments and some blood and respectively flames. The web of leaves is most consistent at the top of the print, being almost intertwined and forming a garland above Madeline’s head.
In Poe’s text, the narrator observes the natural elements, some kind of a picturesque dead nature near the Usher mansion: “Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves” (pg118) These are organic metaphors, having inspiration in Gothic architecture, showing the state of decomposition. Fungi usually develop in moist, damp, suffocating, and dark environments. By referencing the natural kingdom, E. A. Poe accentuates the archetypal setting of the Gothic. Poe foreshadows his belief in the fusion of organic and inorganic elements. Botanical elements are usually aspects of the ethereal atmosphere, of bohemian architecture, but as in “The Fall of the House of Usher”, my printed tangling leaves are signs of disease and dissertation. The inhabitants of the House have been engulfed both physically and spiritually by the mansion. Because of the creeping fungi on the walls of the dwelling, aspects of humanity and sanity are erased altogether. The exterior mirrors the interior of the Usher twins. By choosing to portray the dead nature referenced in the text, I transformed the fungi and the “decayed trees” into a universal symbol: crawling leaves. Thus, the web-like “minute fungi”, illustrated in the text by Poe, is reminiscent of the web-work of the Gothic cathedral. Architecture and visual composition is a very important facet of the fantastic novella.
The reason behind the absence of leaves from the bottom half of the print — Roderick’s side — is supposed to represent the helplessness of the character itself. Madeline’s aura of creeping branches full of leaves serves as an element of wildness and corruption, intended to depict her aggressive behavior as the id in the Freudian trio. She’s the one that contaminates her brother at the end. Her ghastly appearance torments him and disturbs his mind; the climax consisting of Roderick being enclosed in her dead arms, just like the House is enclosed and suffocated by the dead nature — by the “minute fungi”.
The skulls are also part of the organic aesthetic props. They epitomize the royal bloodline of the Usher family. The twins are surrounded by the skulls of their family, a kind of memento mori that is always depicted in paintings. This is the twins’ destiny too, they are going to die, and together with their death, the Usher family will cease to exist. The present will become history. The leaves that branch out of the bony heads are indications that even the dead are contaminated.
The color red is also an important symbol in Poe’s novella. He uses the vibrancy of the color in culminating episodes. Madeline, after her escape from the tomb, is described as having blood smeared all over her white gown. There are also signs of struggle to get out of the tomb, which signals to the theme of the live burial: “There was blood upon her white robes and the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her emaciated frame”. (pg 136) In Mircea Elide, live burial is considered to be an archetype and an important stage in the renovation process. From a Freudian perspective, Madeline’s vault and burial ceremony emulate Roderick’s intention of ignoring his repressed sexual desires. The return of Madeline at the end of the story is the return of the repressed. Hence, Madeline not only represents the repressed feelings of her brother, but she also represents an effect: The Uncanny. The color red is introduced in the novella as a feature of the horror. Rather than soaking Madeline’s clothes with red blood, I only painted the blood from her fingers, showing her struggle of returning as a repressed desire of Roderick. Although the sister is never depicted as having anything fluid dripping from her hands, I added the idea that her fingers are supposed to look tense, twitched in peculiar forms, with blood steeping down onto Roderick’s side. To make a connection between the theme of decay and that of the Freudian live burial, I painted the ends of the branches, that makeup Madeline’s garland, into red, trying to illustrate a transition from organic leaves into the organic fluid — little capillaries of blood seeping upwards and merging together to define the letter “M”.
Lady Madeline is a character constructed in parallel with the environment; never existing, almost like she’s just a part of Roderick and the House. The narrator glances upon her visage merely as she is passing through the room. He doesn’t describe her at all, but only as being identical with her sibling. Readers can solely interpret her as something cloaked in white and a blood-smeared figure of nightmares. In Poe’s narrative, Lady Madeline has become surreal. She’s an idea. Consequently, we don’t really know how Madeline looks like. I took the liberty to represent her in my print as a young, beautiful “nimphete”, with long locks of curly hair and two dotted cheeks as signs of her blush: “a faint blush upon the bosom and the face, and that suspiciously lingering smile upon the lip which is so terrible in death”. (p. 129) The eyes are engraved as shut, only the lines can be distinguished. Though the figure of Lady Madeline is dressed in white robes in the text, I portrayed the two siblings in nude.
The print shows Madeline’s perky breasts, evidence of “maturity of youth”, and her tiny waistline. The bodies of the twins are intertwined and glued together. I wanted to replicate the theme of Incestuous bonds, the dual hallucination, and the connection between the id and the ego, the psychological half, and the physical one. They are nude because they are in the Freudian womb of repression, the vault from Poe’s novella; they are shown in their pure state.
The attachment of the siblings was done from the bosom down and the dissecting here is important: twins always mirror each other, be it in personality or physiognomy, which is why I wanted to portray the bodies as contrasting each other — like a mirror. The spectral little forms done in the area of the “knot” between the two are evocations of the undulating effects of mirror reflections of light. In my print, Lady Madeline is the most important character, Roderick seems more like a Jungian Shadow, a consequence of his sister’s existence. His body movements are those of a tormented individual — his arms are up, above and upon his face, in a defensive attitude. The posture in which I wanted him was that of a cowardly character. This is a depiction of Roderick at the end of “The Fall of the House of Usher”, where he is so devoured by madness and fear that he couldn’t stand to look at the figure of his sister. Again, the apparition of his repressed feelings and desires. On the other hand, the third and last appearance of Lady Madeline displays her ferocity and her aggressiveness. She is the whole mechanism of the story; she puts into motion everything.
Thus, while my visual interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe’s novella, “The Fall of the House of Usher” draws closely on the text, it does have new layers of meaning. In Poe’s narrative, the House is the ultimate archetype and the ultimate character. It is a projection of the writer’s feelings, of his melancholy. “FEAR!” represents the nucleus, the drive of the story, as well as of its characters. Transferring the text’s themes and connotations into a visual work adds more to the layers of the story and shows the abundance of interpretations of the same themes. The modern aspect of the linocut technique also enriches the experience of the reading.
It has been known that Edgar Allan Poe has entered the American literary canon for his merits of being a short story writer and the first to come upon the detective genre. But he’s also the first American writer that has quite the elegiac romance tones and Coleridgean self-development elements to his writings. Through titles such as “William Wilson”, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Black Cat”, “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, E. A. Poe continued to illuminate his theories of Victorian and romantic visuals, intertwined with gothic elements of doom, decay, and death. His literary experiments are ponderings on the transition between life and death, two abstract notions that appear as substantial themes in his works.
The tales of this particular American writer are set upon the paper with great meticulous attention to what the alchemists used to call, “the six senses”. Poe’s interesting style of aestheticism is an amalgamation of neo-classic, pre-romantic, and romantic elements, that, fused together, transform the concept of reality into a mysterious, elevated, and irrational force. His characters are dead men walking, lunatics, disease-infested vessels of psychological disturbances and he toys with all of them in extensive descriptive passages through which the reader is compelled to “see”, “feel” and “smell”, from the narrator’s perspective, the haunting illusions and delusions that usually transcend and embellish his text.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” was first published in 1839 and is considered to be Poe’s best gothic-fantastic novella whose interesting view upon history subtly emerges from within the three characters’ destinies. With its widely popular gothic atmosphere and delirious horror hues, “The Fall of the House of Usher” is set within the walls of the archetypal house, a container, as Durand might observe, of horrible illusions, ghastly images, and ominous happenings. The three human characters, Roderick and Madeline Usher, together with the anonymous narrator, are the menage á trois of Freudian psychoanalysis, embodying the ego, id, and superego. The highly unsettling work deals with several important themes and symbols: decay or decomposition, history as a rotten material and a literary device, incestuous vampiric love, madness and psychosis, fear, and imagination. Managing to revitalize the Gothic genre of literature (now called “Southern Gothic”), Poe’s hypersensitivity birthed an interesting change to the genre of horror: turning the external horror into the macabre within — “the terror of the soul”, by using tropes such as foreshadowing, anadiplosis, enargia, personification (or pathetic fallacy), alliteration and synesthesia.
Following an anonymous narrator, the novella opens with the already set disintegration of the House and its inhabitants, the Usher twins. The opening paragraph transposes the reader in the realm of misty frightening surroundings, imbued with a dusty palette of greys and dull off-whites: “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 the view of the melancholy House of Usher”. (cititat prima pagina carte) Roderick Usher has invited his friend, the anonymous character-narrator, to come to see him, hoping that this friendly reunion will appease his internal whirlwind of sufferings. After we get introduced to Roderick Usher and his psychological decline, the narrator “showers” us with detailed information upon the history of the Usher family.
Analysis Of “Fall Of The House Of Usher”
Have you ever finished watching a horror movie at the movie theatre, and while walking out to your car the mixture of the bone chilling wind and darkness the seems to seep into every corner makes the aftermath of the movie worse then the movie. If you were at home wrapped up in your warm blanket then the aftermath wouldn’t be as bad. Edgar Allan Poe uses the same idea through setting and imagery to create an uneasy, dreary, and unsettling mood.
In the very beginning of this short story the author opens up with “During the whole of a dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens,” immediately giving you a sense of heavy melancholy from the environment. And then he goes to say “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. ” To then establish the fact that even though he will be visiting his friend he will have a sense of singularity, and off putting uneasy throughout the whole of this story.
The author opens this last paragraph with “From that chamber, and from that mansion, I fled aghast. The storm was still abroad in all its wrath as I found myself crossing the old causeway. ” The author describes the protagonist running for his life from the supernatural phenomenons that have just occurred in front of him back to the original place he rode towards the House of Usher. Effectively making the original uneasy the setting gave to begin with to an absolute terror that has been building throughout the story. “- a pestilent and mystic vapour, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued. Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream,” This quote from the story is the first time the protagonist sees a visual representation of all the uneasy and off putting mood that hasn’t stoppedsense he rode up to the house of Usher.
In the story the protagonist notices how oddly the house is falling apart “No portion of the masonry had fallen; and there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still perfect adaptation of parts, and the crumbling condition of the individual stones. ” Nothing has fallen off but some of it is barely holding on and spider web cracks run up and down the house. It closely represents the sanity of the protagonist’s friend almost as if the house and his are connected.
So in conclusion the author is a master in using the mood to create an atmosphere of uneasy, off putting feelings, and compleat terror. Through small details, like the setting and imagery.
Specific Stylistic Techniques in Ligeia And The Fall Of The House of Usher By Edgar Allan Poe
This essay will explore the ways Poe utilizes specific stylistic techniques and characterisation within his short stories of Ligeia and The Fall of the House of Usher to construct a state of suspense for the reader. The notion of suspense in this essay is to be defined as a ‘state of being suspended or kept undetermined’. The use of suspense in this manner attempts to immediately encapsulate a reader’s attention throughout the entire text. Poe manipulates this concept of suspense in collaboration with his short stories, described by Buranelli as a ‘tissue of nightmares’, within the Gothic genre. This essay will focus upon the characterisation of the protagonist’s obsession, and primarily the stylistic techniques of the sense of impending doom, the intertwining of what is reality or imagination, and the exploitation of terror by Poe to create suspense for a reader.
From the onset of The Fall of the House of Usher Poe explicitly conveys the sense of impending doom throughout the narrative as a stylistic technique to create suspense. The pensive descriptions by the unnamed narrator reinforce the idea that he is destined for disaster, as the narrator frequently describes that an ‘insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit’. This stylistic technique of foreshadowing used by Poe further creates a melancholy ‘atmosphere of sorrow’ that unambiguously links to the Gothic genre. Consequently, this aura created by Poe, heightens the sense of unease around the unnamed narrator who has an ‘intolerable agitation of soul’, and ‘nervousness’, linked to his demeanour. Due to this foreshadowing through the narrators emotions to predict a catastrophic ending, Poe teases the reader with the spine-chilling effect of ‘spiralling intensification’ of the reader’s emotions in the microcosm of his short story. It is due to this escalating darkness within the narrative that Kaplan argues Poe can ‘engender abnormal states of mind’ to capture the sense of forthcoming doom that his protagonist is predestined for.
It is important to further consider the sense of impending doom triggered by the elements of the setting in Ligeia. Contrastingly to The Fall of the House of Usher, the sense of impending doom in Ligeia is portrayed through the intricate descriptions of the bedroom chamber. This is depicted by the ‘phantasmagoric influences’, and ‘uneasy vitality’, in the domineering setting which generates a strong feeling of suspense that is both simultaneously thrilling, and petrifying, for a reader. The repetition of the adjective ‘phantasmagoric’ within both short stories further highlights the strong sense of illusion that Poe accentuates with the unreliable narrator he inaugurates in both stories. It is this sense of uncertainty, through ‘phantasmagoric’ illusions in Ligeia that the fear of impending doom comes through to the reader, thus creating a strong feeling of suspense.
One of the most prominent features of Ligeia is the way Poe characterises the unnamed narrator with the personality trait of obsession. The constant ‘flashes’ of images, and thoughts, internally in the protagonist’s psychosis highlight his evident obsession with Ligeia, and what Gerald-Kennedy describes as a ‘fixation with dying women’ in Poe’s works. The language Poe links with the narrator in his portrayals of Ligeia involve the repeated fanatical descriptions of ‘wild visions’, ‘no ordinary passion’, and ‘intense excitement’ on this subject. Poe uses unnerving language to associate the narrator with lunacy about Ligeia, which is vividly shown with the accumulation of exclamative sentences. As he describes, ‘the eyes of Ligeia!’, and ‘How for long hours have I pondered upon it!’, it unequivocally highlights a terrifying obsession and excitement about Ligeia which all come from his internalised thoughts and infatuation about her. Poe accordingly creates elements of monomania with the characterisation of the narrator as he is permanently fixated upon Ligeia, however we may be drawn to sympathise with the narrator in terms of his longing for a woman whom he loves. This means that, although he may be seen as psychotic and thwarted with desire, this could be interpreted as unrequited love for Ligeia that has driven him to this point of insanity. As Poe, himself, was interested in the psychology of human beings, the ‘psychological penetration’ given through the obsessive narrative does ultimately terrifies the reader, which consequently creates suspense, combined with thrill, through fear.
In both The Fall of the House of Usher, and Ligeia, Poe intertwines the real, and imagined, together as a stylistic technique in order to develop the feeling of uncertainty in terms of suspense within the texts. Specifically with Ligeia, the ‘incipient madness’ of the narration is thwarted by the influence of ‘opium dreams’ that result in an inability to determine what is real, or what is imagined. This ‘opium engendered’ imagination, that fuels the narrative, gives a sense of unpredictability on behalf of the narrator, as he is thwarted with images of Ligeia. This means that the description of the indefinite, wavy simile of Ligeia where she ‘came and departed like a shadow’, or the metaphorical language associated with her eyes that had a ‘secret of their expression’ do not give a sense of conviction about her physical appearance or presence. Notably, there is a strong atmosphere of the Gothic genre to create uncertainty within the simile of Ligeia where she ‘came and departed like a shadow’. Due to the peripheral nature of the ‘shadow’, which intensifies the nature of blurring reality and subsequently creates uncertainty for the narrator, Ligeia is depicted as being reduced from a whole woman to a moving shadow. It is these ‘episodes of near-death states of dreamlike intensity’ that Poe entwines into the stylistic technique of blurring the real, and imagined, together in order to create suspense for the reader.
Contrastingly, in The Fall of the House of Usher, Poe uses the real and imagined in order to develop a sense of thrill within the setting of the narrative. Through this blood-curdling element of the Gothic text would transpire through to a reader to engender doubt, and ambiguity, about what is reality or imagination in the text. The ‘phantasmagoric influence of the gloomy furniture’, compounded by the ‘vacant eye-like windows’, anthropomorphises the house which gives it a strong element of vitality in what initially appears to be a dreary setting. Understandably, this blurs the boundaries between the real and imagined in the text, as a reader would be firmly predisposed to the idea of a house being an inert object not something alive. The apparent ‘violent realism in his [Poe’s] macabre writings’ accordingly sparks life into intangible, and inanimate objects, thus obscuring the boundaries of reality, and imagination as a stylistic technique.
It is without question that the most indispensable stylistic technique used by Poe is embedding a thematic terror and fear within both texts that transpires through to the audience. With regard to The Fall of the House of Usher, the gruesome depiction of Madeline with ‘blood upon her white robes’ instantaneously creates a frightening image of gory blood upon a corpse that has risen from the dead. This terrifying image is further made fearful by the contrasting nature of the colours white and red. The connotations of the colour ‘white’ conveys purity and an uncorrupted nature of a character, whereas the colour ‘red’ in this circumstance emphasises violence and death. It is with two colours combined at the climax of the story, that the ‘emaciated frame’ of Madeline Usher heightens the suspense through the terror of her appearance.
Underpinning this nature of contrasting colours, and gore within the image of Madeline Usher, is the symbolic references to the supernatural to further develop a sense of terror and fear for the reader. The ‘superhuman energy of his [Roderick Usher’s] utterance’ is shown to be unnerving for the narrator as he is portrayed by muttering a satanic-style verse upon perceiving the corpse of Madeline. This eerie supernatural sensation that is created in the text is further enhanced by the ‘blood-red moon’ that surrounds this environment. It is this symbolic moon that may be representative for the hellish atmosphere which overshadows the entirety of the events that unfold in this haunted mansion. The premodification of the moon with the noun ‘blood-red’ reinforces a Gothic intensity, as characterising the moon with ‘blood-red’ instils the fear of damnation for a reader due to the supernatural appearance. Poe effectively creates a ‘hellish world of rootlessness’ in this story, which is what critics describe as a ‘spiritual sterility and eerie isolation’ when discussing Poe being a dark Romantic, who writes Gothic fiction with elements of the supernatural sublime like the ‘blood-red moon’. It is Poe’s amalgamation of the supernatural with the thematic use of terror and fear within the text that may ultimately cause the most concentrated amount of suspense within the tale of The Fall of the House of Usher due to it being a revolutionary style of Gothic writing in America in 1839.
Overall, the stylistic techniques and characterisation that Edgar Allan Poe incorporates into his short stories of Ligeia and The Fall of the House of Usher highlight that in order for him to create suspense, he must first develop thrilling and blood-curdling sensations through his writings. It is therefore evident that through characterising protagonists with obsession, and creating a fear of impending doom, entwining the real and imagined and exploiting terror as stylistic techniques, there is consequently great suspense and tension emanated from these short stories. However, it is without failure that the suspense Poe creates is wholly overshadowed by the Gothic genre, and elements of the sublime, which create multi-layered Gothic short stories that petrify a reader.
A Providing Theme in The Fall of The House of Usher
Prosecution of Roderick Usher
In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Roderick Usher is guilty of the premeditated murder of his sister, Madeline. While some readers might reach different conclusions, the most strict interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe’s work reveals clear evidence of Roderick’s culpability; by the end of the story, it is apparent that not only did Roderick bury Madeline alive, but he did so intentionally. Several elements of the short story verify this accusation: first, Roderick chooses to keep his sister’s body for a fortnight after she has been buried (presumably so that no one can save her); second, Roderick’s actions as well as the settings of the narrative expose his guilt; third, Roderick confesses that he knew Madeline was still breathing during her burial; and finally, Roderick’s hypochondria provides him with a motive to kill Madeline.
The evidence of Roderick’s guilt begins to emerge midway through “The Fall of the House of Usher,” when Roderick leads the narrator to believe that Madeline has died and that the narrator should aid him in burying his sister. In fact, it is likely that Madeline is alive and merely suffering from a cataleptical attack. When the narrator first arrived at the House of Usher, Roderick told him that Madeline’s catalepsy causes her to temporarily lose the ability to move parts or all of her body. This would explain Madeline’s “faint blush” and “suspiciously lingering smile” during her burial (323). While Roderick and the narrator are burying Madeline, Roderick informs the narrator that he intends to keep the coffin in his mansion for a fortnight after Madeline’s internment. Roderick claims that this temporary entombment is a defense against the “obtrusive and eager inquiries on the part of [Madeline’s] medical men,” which might culminate in the dissection of his sister’s body by doctors (321). When scrutinized, however, Roderick’s assertions seem highly suspect. Although it is true that doctors might be interested in Madeline’s body in light of her peculiar symptoms, a simple request that Madeline’s body be left in peace would likely quell the doctors’ inquiries. Additionally, Roderick only desires to retain his sister’s body for a fortnight; he seems to have no qualms relinquishing her corpse after two weeks have passed – at which point the doctors will have free reign over Madeline’s body anyway. The only plausible explanation, then, for Roderick’s refusal to release Madeline’s body for a fortnight is that he knows his sister will die after being kept in a grave for two weeks with no food or water. Moreover, if a doctor were to open Madeline’s grave prior to her death, she would be able to escape, and Roderick’s crime would be unveiled. Thus, Roderick Usher not only buried Madeline alive, but he did so deliberately, as made clear by his refusal to allow her body to be released for two weeks.
Poe continues to provide proof that Roderick Usher murdered his sister in multiple layers of “The Fall of the House of Usher.” After “some days of bitter grief,” the narrator perceives “an observable change” in Roderick (323). He says, “there were times, indeed, when I thought his unceasingly agitated mind was laboring with some oppressive secret” (323). While the nature of this secret is not explicitly revealed at this time, the positioning of this statement directly after the burial of Madeline and the declaration of Roderick’s grief strongly implies that the “oppressive secret” is Roderick’s knowledge that he killed his sister. In addition, the settings of the short story can be read as a metaphor for Roderick’s guilt. “You have not then seen it?––but stay! You shall,” he tells the narrator before throwing open the doors of his mansion and witnessing a “whirlwind [that] had apparently collected its force in our vicinity” (323-324). The narrator goes on to describe the storm as containing “frequent and violent alterations” and culminating in “a faintly luminous and distinctly visible gaseous exhalation which hung about and enshrouded the mansion” (324). The whirlwind represents the storm of guilt that is gathering inside Roderick and hanging over the House of Usher in the wake of Madeline’s death at Roderick’s hands (hence the narrator’s recollection that the storm took “its force in our vicinity”). Eventually, the narrator will learn of the homicide, just as the narrator sees the storm once Roderick throws the doors open (hence “you shall [see it]”). Roderick’s guilt further substantiates the charge of premeditated murder, as his killing must have been intentional given that he clearly knows he murdered Madeline after the fact.
Finally, Roderick admits to killing Madeline in the concluding paragraphs of the short story, thereby dispelling any pleas for innocence. After he hears what he believes to be his sister rising from the grave and coming toward him, he says, “We have put her living in the tomb … I now tell you that I heard her first feeble movements in the hollow coffin. I heard them … yet I dared not – I dared not speak!” (326) This confession confirms beyond reasonable doubt that Madeline’s death had in fact been the object of both Roderick’s guilt and his “secret” earlier. The suspect has now confessed to the crime.
Skeptics might ask why Roderick Usher would kill his own sister. However, Poe deliberately mentions that Roderick is a hypochondriac at two very important places in the story, and he hints that this hypochondria might have lead Roderick to kill Madeline out of the fear that he could contract her disease. Poe first mentions Roderick’s excessive paranoia of diseases when describing a painting of Roderick’s. He begins, “if ever mortal painted an idea, that mortal was Roderick Usher,” and although he never specifies what idea Roderick painted, he says that “there arose out of the pure abstractions which the hypochondriac contrived to throw upon his canvas, an intensity of intolerable awe, no shadow of which I felt ever yet in the contemplation of the certainly glowing yet too concrete reveries of Fuseli” (319). The ideas that Roderick is painting, then, have to do with Johann Heinrich Fuseli, a Swiss painter who dedicated his career in art to scenes of horror. The identification of Roderick as a “hypochondriac” in the same sentence as Poe’s allusion to Fuseli is not coincidental; rather, it can be interpreted as Poe’s method of foreshadowing the horrifying acts that Roderick will commit due to his fear of disease – such as killing his sister. The second instance where Poe alludes to Roderick’s hypochondria makes this connection even more explicit. After the narrator finishes conversing with Roderick about his favorite books – which include such works as “The New Tortures of the Inquisition” and the “Vigils for the Dead” – the narrator notes that “I [can] not help thinking of the wild ritual of this work, and of its probable influence upon the hypochondriac, when … he stated his intention of preserving her corpse for a fortnight” (321). It has already been demonstrated that Roderick’s decision to hide away Madeline’s body followed his burial of her while she was still alive. Here, Poe clarifies that not only was this decision influenced by books about torture, but also that it was motivated by Roderick’s hypochondria. Roderick, therefore, buried his sister alive because his hypochondria caused him to fear that her disease might spread to him. This is his motive for the murder.
Some might argue for a charge of premeditated attempted murder given that the narrator reports seeing Madeline alive at the end of the story, which could be interpreted as an indication that the murder was unsuccessful. However, as any careful literary critic will note, Madeline’s appearance may have been intended figuratively rather than literally. After all, Poe writes one paragraph that the House of Usher suddenly split in half and collapsed into the water – clearly, then, not everything at this point in the short story is to be taken at its face value. Rather, Poe likely wrote of Madeline’s return as a metaphor for the intensification of Roderick’s guilt as the story nears its conclusion. This explanation seems more plausible than a physical appearance since Madeline has by this juncture been buried for over seven days, making it improbable that she is still alive. Still, even if Madeline’s return is interpreted as an event that literally takes place, the narrator reports that Madeline is covered in her own blood and too weak to stand; consequently, even if she managed to rise from her grave, the experience of being buried alive weakened her to the extent that she will in all likelihood die soon. Therefore, whether one reads Madeline’s appearance literally or metaphorically, Roderick Usher still committed a premeditated murder. Others might argue that Roderick was only guilty of involuntary manslaughter. However, had the killing of his sister been accidental, Roderick would have had no reason to hide Madeline’s body for a fortnight. Furthermore, if Roderick had committed the murder fortuitously, then he would not have known that his sister had still been alive during her burial. Following this scenario, he would neither have realized that he had killed her nor been guilt-ridden about the murder; however, Poe makes it clear that Roderick did, in fact, know what he had done. Finally, still others might plea for insanity. Putting aside, for a moment, the typical inefficacy of such pleas, the evidence for Roderick’s insanity prior to the murder is simply inadequate. In fact, Roderick only seems to become insane after he kills his sister (hence the “observable change” in Roderick following the burial); therefore, if it is true that Roderick is insane at any point in the short story, this insanity is an outcome of his guilt, not some actual mental illness. In addition, the plot to hide his sister’s body from any doctors is clearly the plot of a calculating murderer rather than the invention of a lunatic.
Roderick Usher’s murder of Madeline was cold and premeditated. Because he feared that his sick sister’s catalepsy might be contagious, he conceived of a plan to bury her alive. Following the burial of his still-living sister, Roderick made certain that her body would not be discovered; naturally, he felt guilty, but he suppressed the pangs of his conscience rather than saving his sister while he still could; and finally, when the guilt was too much to contain, he confessed to the murder. Thus, the final two Ushers destroyed themselves, and with them fell the metaphorical House of Usher.
A Look into the Events That Influenced “The Fall of the House of Usher”
“The Fall of the House of Usher” is one of Edgar Allen Poe’s lesser known works, but not so to the point of obscurity. It deserves a spot right next to “The Raven”, or “The Tell-Tale Heart” for its masterful manipulation on the feelings of the reader. And despite that unpopularity, this book is the lesser known favorite of Poe’s works for readers of Poe, myself included. All 83 (or more) stories he wrote have this connection to the reader through the feelings of the work he pushes upon the reader. Poe was the master of the Gothic style and is often used as the reference in teaching Gothic writing. Poe’s background, the Gothic writing style of the time, and general culture of where he lived all played parts in the writing of his work, “The Fall of the House of Usher”.
Edgar Allan Poe’s life is one to be pitied. Both of his parents were traveling actors, moving constantly and unable to hold reliable jobs. His father deserted the family and left the mother with Poe, most likely due to the fact of his rampant alcoholism. Shortly after his abandonment, his mother died of tuberculosis and thus Poe was an orphan. Fortunately, Poe was taken in by the family of Joe and Francis Allan within a short time afterwards. Poe lived in a time where the average life span less than 40 and death was commonplace due to smallpox, tuberculosis, measles, cholera, and a general lack of good healthcare alongside the shortage of actual doctors. John Allen, his foster father, was at least mildly deranged. He treated Poe wonderfully half of the time, and the other half he was malicious with beatings and beratings. This plethora of death and mental illnesses plays a massive role in Poe’s later life, as he follows down the same path becoming an insufferable alcoholic and plagued with many various forms of mental ailments, as clearly displayed in the accurate accounts of such in the works that he wrote. Mostly due to these afflictions, Poe bounced around schools and became engaged. He proposed to Sarah Royster and then went to study and the University of Virginia, who’s newness lead to a very unruly atmosphere. Despite the strict moral rules based off Thomas Jefferson against tobacco, alcohol, and gambling, the disciplinary rules were incredibly lax as the students were almost entirely independent and had to physically report illegal or banned activities to the faculty. Poe’s gambling habits developed here and because of that, he lost contact with his fiancé and foster father. He left the university after a year, and from there he bounced around much like his parents, taking odd jobs and trying to make it to the next day. This fall through, and Poe enlisted in the United States Army, lying about his name and age to achieve entry. He rose through the ranks relatively easily but wanted to end his 5-year enlistment before its end date. He revealed his lies and was only allowed to discharge by a letter from his foster father, so he could attend West Point and get a proper education. Further discrepancies with Allan lead to his disownment and resulted in Poe getting court-marshalled to be able to leave the academy. He left the academy in 1831 and released more works that were funded by his fellow cadets at West Point. With these publications of his poems, he tried to live solely off that revenue, but ended up begging for money after that failure. Poe moved to Philadelphia and attempted being a full-time author again, but in stories instead of poetry. This change is what started his career that would eventually
The first page sets the scene, one that truly immerses the reader and putting them in that dark atmosphere of the House of Usher. The House of Usher is given human-esque descriptions of everything from the “ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like structures” (Poe). Poe continues with his wonderful uses of imaginative description you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere. His further detail into the house and the surroundings not only lets you clearly picture it
The rest of the story provides this sense of unity, everything has a connection or a mirror.
Breaking Down the Features of Sonnet X and The Fall of the House of Usher
In “Sonnet X” and “The Fall of the House of Usher”, Frederick Goddard Tuckerman and Edgar Allan Poe, the respective authors, both argue that to be successful a person must have, as Richard Wilbur describes, rational and non-rational capabilities. Each work depicts a man distraught as a result of the detachment between the rational and non-rational components of his mind. The non-rational element manifests itself in a complete isolation from society and intense suffering. The narrator is obsessed with the non-rational manifestation and cannot rid his mind of it, struggling in vain to better comprehend it. Eventually, in both “Sonnet X” and “Usher”, the narrator’s misunderstanding of his non-rational side leads to the destruction of that part of his mind. The narrator lives on, though not as a complete person.
“Sonnet X” shares many similarities with Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”. As in “Sonnet X”, Poe delves into the human mind to investigate its rational and non-rational components. In both stories, the narrator projects a character who is a figment of his imagination in order to represent his non-rational side. In both works, this projection occurs during the rational character’s mid-life crisis, thus suggesting that the realization of time’s passing affects the characters in such a way that they begin to neglect their non-rational identities. Because they are unable to properly interpret their non-rational counterparts, both rational characters reject them, causing the death of this piece of their identity.
“Sonnet X” is told through the perspective of a narrator observing the life of a recluse. The narrator describes a man who has completely isolated himself inside his own world, closed off from society in an “upper chamber.” This man’s life is miserable and desolate; he is trapped within it, “in a darkened house.” The narrator observes the man’s seclusion and explains that the man’s life has been riddled with hardships: “Terror and anguish were his lot to drink”. The secluded man intrigues the narrator, who empathizes with the loner and thinks about him often; he quickly becomes infatuated with the idea of him, and says “I cannot rid the thought nor hold it close.” It is implied that the narrator is not directly familiar with the man, does not know much about him, and can only “dimly dream upon that man alone”, which in turn implies the two men have little or no relationship and the narrator is observing from a distance. The narrator dreams of the man in an attempt to understand him, but can still not fathom the wretched life the man leads; indeed, the very thought of it frightens him.
Symbolically, the withdrawn man is a projection of the narrator’s mind. The two characters are components of the same person, one representing the rational portion and the other the non-rational portion. The narrator, by observing and trying to comprehend the man, represents the rational. The man he watches, who is detached from society and living alone in a world distinguished by suffering, represents the non-rational. The narrator, by dwelling on this man, is attempting to understand the non-rational aspect of his own self. Before now, he has neglected this aspect of his being throughout his life, as again suggested in the lines: “His footsteps reached ripe manhood’s brink; Terror and anguish were his lot to drink.” At this point in his life, the narrator rediscovers the non-rational part of himself, yet fails to comprehend it and is confused and unnerved by how neglected the non-rational aspect has become.
As time passes and the man ages, the rational narrator continues to misunderstand his non-rational projection. Throughout the poem, the passing of time is visible, signifying a transition through life. The narrator has reached middle age, and has thereby realized that his life is fleeting: “now though the autumn clouds must softly pass.” He senses that time is slipping away and he feels he must make an effort to progress in life and enjoy the pleasures it has to offer: “the cricket chides.” He begins to understand that, although he has reached the later stages of his life, it can still be appreciated and there is still time to live fully: “And greener than the season grows the grass.” He cannot fully move on with his life, however. His thoughts still linger upon the miserable man of his dreams, his non-rational identity. “Nor can I drop my lids nor shade my brows,/But there he stands”, he notes. He feels he cannot accept time and appreciate life until he has dealt with this persistent reminder of his dying non-rational self.
The years of mistreatment of the non-rational self reach a climax as the narrator finally realizes he has destroyed this fragment of his existence. He observes the tormented man standing at the open window of his “upper chamber”, describes him as “[standing] beside the lifted sash.” Overcome with a rush of emotion, he suddenly realizes the man is contemplating suicide, “and with a swooning heart, I think.” If this man, the non-rational piece of the narrator’s identity, dies, a piece of the narrator’s soul will die with him. The narrator describes the sloping, black shingles of the house meeting the limbs of a mountain ash: “Where the black shingles slope to meet the boughs,/And, shattered on the roof like smallest snows,/The tiny petals of the mountain ash.” The shingles, sloping downward, represent death and contrast with the living and upward-growing branches of the ash. Where life and death meet, shattered petals, cold and lifeless like snow, are scattered. These petals represent the narrator, his life shattered, as he finds himself trapped between life and death. With his non-rational element destroyed, he is no longer a whole human being.
There are many direct parallels in “Sonnet X” to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The narrator of Poe’s story describes a journey to visit a childhood friend, Roderick Usher. The writing suggests that the narrator’s life is somewhat empty and lacking, for he can take time away from it to visit a lost friend, and he notes: “I had been passing alone…through a singularly dreary tract of country.” The ensuing situation is similar to that of “Sonnet X”, for here again the narrator obsesses over the reclusive man, interrupting his own life to think of him. Roderick Usher, a projection of the narrator’s imagination, represents the non-rational being, and his plight corresponds to that of the man in “Sonnet X.” Usher is described as suffering greatly, afflicted by “a mental disorder which oppressed him.” The narrator travels to Usher’s home to attend to his friend, and during the course of the story he tries his best to understand Usher’s condition and to sympathize with his situation – just as the narrator of “Sonnet X” strives to comprehend the man in the chamber. In both cases, the rational character is unable to understand his non-rational counterpart and is simultaneously experiencing the uncertainty of reaching middle age: “in the autumn of the year, the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens.” This in turn causes the narrator to examine the passing of time and his own non-rational self. Finally, both stories conclude with the death of the narrator’s non-rational identity. As Usher dies, the House of Usher crumbles and is destroyed, “the deep and dank tarn [closing] sullenly and silently over the fragment of the House of Usher.” This climax is comparable to the shattered petals in “Sonnet X,” and both instances represent the permanent destruction of the narrator’s non-rational self. Both rational characters live on, although their lives will remain, from then on, forever incomplete.
Comparing and Contrasting Good and Evil Research Paper
The essay is a critical examination of how evil and good are portrayed in two literatures; Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. The Tempest is thought to have been written between 1610 and 1611. The story revolves around a remote area in which Prospero the main character is trying to ensure that together with his daughter they get back what is rightfully theirs.
Ideally the play lets the reader know that Miranda and her father were kicked out of their rightful position by Antonio, Prospero jealous brother. This leaves them stranded for 12 years and Miranda’s father is working day and night to reclaim their deserved position. Through such efforts, it is evident for the reader to clearly see through Shakespeare glasses the manner with which good and evil as themes are clearly depicted (Shakespeare par.5).
The second literature that will be used is The Fall of the House of Usher written by Poe. It is a short story of Gothic horror narrated in first person. The work was published back in 1893. In this gothic story, readers are told of the family of Usher; Roderick and his twin sister Madeline.
The two suffer from a disease which is unknown and cannot be cured. Their transgression which includes mental illness and incest are clearly brought to light by the author. To successfully accomplish this task, it would be rational to provide an understanding of the terms evil and good. In this context good will refers to that which is morally right. This means that good is that which helps and does less harm to others in the society.
On the other hand, evil is that which is not morally acceptable. It is an act of not being concern about others as well as knowingly and intentionally seeking to harm the interest as well as welfare of other human beings. It is worth to acknowledge that there is a controversy between good and evil and as suggested by other scholars hence difficult to determine whether one is evil or good (Herman 234). However, for the purposes of this paper every act will be analyzed independently.
Portrayal of good and evil in ‘The Tempest’
In the play The Tempest, Shakespeare has managed to clearly depict evil and good through characterization. It is through such characters as Prospero, Miranda, Ferdinand, Alonso, Ariel, as well as Antonio among others that the audience can see good and evil as intended by the author (Cantor 106).
In the beginning of the play readers are made to clearly understand that Prospero’s jealous brothers with the assistance of Alonso who was the King of Naples was toppled and set adrift with his daughter who was only 3 years old. This is an evil and inhuman act done to him and his daughter. The main reason that drove Antonio to do this was because of his selfish interest in gaining power to rule the people of Milan. This is shown in the following line
[Wow, is it exposition time already? Okay, kiddo, listen up: I used to be the duke of Milan, but then my asshole brother and the King of Naples put you and me on a boat and we ended up here]
On the other hand, through secretly supplying the boat used by Prospero with adequate food, water, clothing as well as books from his study room, Shakespeare manages to make readers understand that this was a good act. This was done by Gonzalo who was counselor to the King. Another act of evil is depicted when Ariel was trapped in a tree. This was the work of Sycorx who was a witch who trapped the later for his own selfish gain.
Despite his help to Ariel and teaching Caliban religion and other important things such as language, it was evil for Prospero to enslave Caliban and Ariel and later took power ad controlled the people living in the island. This is exemplified in the words said by Caliban, “You taught me language; and my profit on’t Is, I know how to curse: the red plague rid you, For learning me your language” (Cantor 71).
Similarly another act of evil is portrayed through an attempted rape where Caliban attempted to rape Miranda. Shakespeare wanted the audience to know how some evil acts are directed to certain gender. It is worth noting also that evil can be done by a group of people. The author makes the readers understand that the rebellion planned by Caliban, Stephano and Triculo failed (Graff & Phelan 49).
It is indeed difficult to establish whether it was good or evil for Prospero to raise tempest through his magic making the ship carrying his brother Antonio, Alonso, Gonzalo and two of Alonso’s brother sons to capsize. However since he did this to revenge, it was an evil act as portrayed by the author.
Shakespeare has tried to make readers hold the view that the acts of the various characters resulting to a good or evil activity is largely motivated by how every person perceives his position relative to those of other characters. Interestingly, the concept of evil and good has been successfully portrayed through the various themes in the poem. For instance, it is due to power that the readers are able to establish the motives behind the actions of Prospero and his brother Antonio (Grant 89).
Portrayal of good and evil in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’
In this story, the author manages to bring the concept of good and evil in a completely different way when compared to the first article written by Shakespeare. Nonetheless there are instances where there seems to be some similarities. It is worth noting that Poe managed to use imagery to bring about the concept of evil (Kennedy 47).
For instance, it has been widely accepted that darkness is associated with evil things. In the beginning of the story the narrator while visiting his friend describes the surrounding and he uses the following words, “During the whole of a dull and soundless day……. When the clouds hung oppressively” (Krutch 62) this clearly depicts that there was an act previously committed that was morally wrong.
Additionally the narrator describes how the house of his childhood friend looked like; he said “I know not how it was – but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit” (Kennedy 74) It is no doubt that Usher residence was one place that a lot of evil had taken place that even a new visitor will be met with a sad environment.
Additionally Poe manages to portray evil by making the narrator fully describe how the house of the Ushers looked like. This not only depicted the nature of evil but also its consequences; it fully destroys a family. The decaying and crumbling building symbolizes the effects of evil (Auberlen 207).
[I looked upon the scene before me – upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain – upon the bleak walls – upon the 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 reveler upon opium – the bitter lapse into everyday life – the hideous dropping off of the veil.
There was iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart – an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime] (Poe par. 6).
Through the narrator and Usher Roderick the readers are made aware of incest in Usher’s family. Upon arrival of his friend, Usher makes his childhood friend understand that the illness he is suffering from is a ‘family evil’ (Walter 98).
The narrator since was a long-time family friend to the Ushers, clearly knows that the family did not allow any member to be married by other members of the society and for that reason they engaged in inbreeding. This led to a very weak blood-line of the family since the family became one and the same genetically. As a result majority of the family members died due to complications related to inbreeding leaving only Usher and his twin sister who are also suffering from a deadly disease (Corben 153).
Through Madeline, the nature and effect of evil is depicted. She also suffers from serious disease that is unknown and incurable. Madeline and Usher engaged in an intimate relationship despite the fact that they were siblings. Similarly the cries heard while the narrator was loudly reading a story to comfort Usher as well as the crumbling and submerging of Usher’s house is a symbol of evil (Poe, par. 12). This is supported by the following.
[…my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder – there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters – and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the “House of Usher] (Poe par. 40)
This is the ultimate punishment for engaging in morally unacceptable activities. It is also worth noting that through Usher, his act of prematurely burying his twin sister was morally unacceptable. Interestingly, through paintings and music, the author manages to use these tools to bring out the concept of evil and good.
Concerning morally acceptable deeds, the narrator has taken the duty of heeding his friends call. He pays Usher a visit since they were childhood friend. It is through the narrator that we see that he takes the responsibility of staying; talking and comforting Usher who was very seek. Additionally the narrator helped Usher lay the body of his sister in a tomb within the family house. From the short story it is apparent that the issue of evil outweighed good (Poe par. 3).
From the review of the two stories, The Tempest and The Fall of the House of Usher, it is evident that the theme of evil and good are clearly depicted. However the authors used different mechanisms to accomplish this. Shakespeare managed to use characters to portray good and evil.
For instance it is through the main protagonist Prospero that other characters are developed conveying the same themes. On the other hand, Poe used imagery and symbolization, painting, music and first person narration through an unnamed narrator to portray good and evil. For instance Poe uses terms such as ‘mansion of gloom’, ‘a ghastly pallor of the skin’, and ‘darkness’ among others. This makes readers understand all these are linked to evil activities.
The common ground to both the authors is with regards to theme development, where the evil and good are manifested through characters. Although the authors used different mechanisms to portray the theme of evil and good, readers are able to appreciate these classical works. From these two classical works, it is apparent that evil is bad and leads to serious consequences.
Eckhard, Auberlen. “The Tempest and the Concerns of the Restoration Court: A Study of the Enchanted Island and the Operatic Tempest”. Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660–1700, 15.1 (1991): 71–88. Print.
Cantor, Paul. “Shakespeare’s The Tempest: The Wise Man as Hero”. Shakespeare Quarterly, 31.1 (1980): 64–75. Print.
Corben. Richard. Edgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales of Terror, London: Del Rey, 2005. Print.
Graff, Gerald and Phelan, James. The Tempest: A Case Study in Critical Controversy, London: MacMillan, 2000. Print.
Grant, Patrick. The Magic of Charity: A Background to Prospero, Oxford University: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print.
Herman, Barbara. The Practice of Moral Judgment, Harvard University: Harvard University Press, 1993. Print.
Kennedy, Gerald. Introduction: Poe in Our Time, collected in A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe. Oxford University: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.
Krutch, Joseph. Edgar Allan Poe: A Study in Genius. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1926. Print.
Poe, Edgar. “The Fall of the House of Usher”. 2008. Web. <http://www.online-literature.com/poe/31/>
Shakespeare, William. “The Tempest”, 1986. Web. <http://www.pinkmonkey.com/booknotes/barrons/tempest2.asp#othr>
Walter, Evans. “The Fall of the House of Usher’ and Poe’s Theory of the Tale.” Studies in Short Fiction, 14.2 (1977): 137–44.
Evans, Walter. “The Fall of the House of Usher” and Poe’s Theory of the Tale. Essay
In this article, Walter Evans discusses the narrative style of Edgar Allan Poe and speaks about the peculiarities of such a short story as The Fall of the House of Usher. This novella occupies a distinctive place in the creative legacy of this writer, and it is included in many collections or anthologies. This literary work has always attracted a close attention of many literary critics who intend to study the literary elements and techniques used by Poe.
On the whole, Walter Evans believes that this literary work does not comply with narrative principles advocated by Poe in many of his critical articles (Evans 137). Moreover, in the author’s opinion, Poe adopts a dramatically different narrative approach which was virtually unprecedented in the nineteenth century. Thus, the readers should consider this issue in order to assess this short story.
These are the main arguments that this scholar tries to elaborate in his discussion. In his critical works, this writer lays stress on the necessity to create the “preconceived effect” by inventing or combining the so-called “incidents” that enable the author to grasp the attention of a reader and produce a specific impression on the audience (Evans 138). In this case, the word incident is used to describe various elements of the narrative that help the writer to achieve his/her goals.
This writer believed that every literary element had to be subordinated to the main effect that the author tried to produce. This method was advocated by many writers in the nineteenth century. Poe applied this approach to many of his short stories. Yet, Walter Evans believes that Poe does not use this principle while writing The Fall of the House of Usher. The scholar describes this short story as “a series of vivid and superficially disjointed images” (Evans 140).
Apart from that, in Evans Walter’s view, the narrative elements do not play an important role in this short story. There are some important events that are critical for the development of the narrative, but Edgar Poe does not pay much attention to them. For instance, one can mention the alleged death of Lady Madeline (Evans 140). Furthermore, the readers know very little about the factors that contributed to the downfall of Roderick Usher. This is the major distinctions that the scholar identifies.
Overall, in this short story, Edgar Poe uses literary elements that help him create vivid imagery. In particular, one can speak about the use of metaphors that are necessary to create striking descriptions of the house in which the main character lives (Evans 143). These descriptions produce a strong impression on the readers who want to know why this house is depicted in this way. This is why this detail should be taken into account. Additionally, these literary devices are importa
This description help readers place themselves in the position of the story-teller. Overall, Walter Evans argues that The Fall of the House of Usher can be viewed as the example of a lyric short story in which the sensations of the protagonist are more important than different elements of the plot (Evans 144).
This issue should not be disregarded because it is vital for the evaluation of this short story. This approach was later adopted by many writers in the twentieth century. In particular, it is possible to mention such authors as Sherwood Anderson and James Joyce.
The author’s discussion shows that Edgar Poe could depart from the aesthetic principles which he discussed in his critical reviews. However, in this way, he was able to create innovative works of literature. These are the major points that the scholar makes in this article. One can argue that this article can be of great use to people who are interested in the works of Edgar Poe.
His literary legacy is still closely examined by many critics, and his narratives are still open to various interpretations. Furthermore, this source can help a reader understand different approaches to writing short stories. So, this information can be useful for analyzing various narratives created by other writers. More importantly, the source can help readers better appreciate fiction. These are some of the main benefits that can be distinguished.
This is why this article can be of great interest to students or even teachers. Certainly, the reading of this source may require some background knowledge. For example, one should learn more about the works of Edgar Poe and his views on literature and story-telling. Additionally, students may read various short stories written by this author. In this way, one can better understand the arguments that Walter Evans makes.
This is one of the limitations that should be considered. However, this article contains an in-depth and thought-provoking analysis of Poe’s short story, and it can show how one can examine a work of literature, especially the techniques used by the authors. This is why it should not be overlooked by the readers.
Evans, Walter. “The Fall of the House of Usher” and Poe’s Theory of the Tale.” Studies in Short Fiction 14.2 (1977): 137-144. ProQuest. Web.
The Theme of Love: “The Two Kinds,” “The fall of the house of usher,” and “Hill Like White Elephants.” Essay
The Theme of Love
There is love in the three short stories. In the “Two Kinds” there is some love between the mother (Suyuan) and daughter (Jing Mei) (Tan, 2006). In the “Hill’s Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway some love abounds between the American man and the pregnant girl.
This story is about the way self-interest can ruin the love that people have nurtured for a long time. In “the fall of the house of usher” there is love between Roderick and his twin sister Madeline. The love has also been strengthened by their illnesses. This paper specifically discuses the theme of love in the three short stories. More especially, the way love is advanced or frustrated by the characters.
The “Two Kinds”
Love that is evidenced in this short story is parental love. This love is depicted in the way the mother prevails upon her daughter to succeed in her studies. This is depicted in the way her mother says, “If you work hard you can achieve your dream here in America,” she added, “of course, you could be prodigy too” (Tan, 2006, p. 132).
However, the daughter took her mothers advice literally. She responded, “You want me to be someone I’m not,” she continued, “I will never be the kind of daughter you want me to be.” “Only two daughters,” she shouted, “those who are obedient and those who can follow their mind, the only daughter who can live in this house is the obedient one” (Tan, 2006, p. 132).
In as much Jing-mei was feeling that her mother never loved her because she was dictating or forcing her to do things she did not like, their bond was strong (Tan, 2006). This is seen in the way she reacted when her mother passed on. Jing-mei started to recognize that what her mother was telling her was right.
The death of her mother functioned as an eye opener for her. In the story it indicated that “she looked back over the music that she had previously rejected and discovered something that she had never noticed” (Tan, 2006). The two songs were the “Perfectly Contented,” the “Pleading Child.” However, upon examining these songs, she realized that they were two different parts of just one song.
It is motherly love that her mother does not want her daughter to go through the sufferings such as—the misfortune of losing kids, the fear and privations of conflicts, as well as the challenges encountered when settling in a different culture (Tan, 2006). That is why her mother has taken the initiative to ensure that her daughter becomes a genius and standing tall amongst other children in America.
Apparently, from her conduct, she is not a genius. This is because geniuses have innate abilities and work only under slight guidance or supervision. As the author indicates, Jing-mei even refused to practice the piano. If she were a genius, this should have been something that would have fascinated her.
The fall of the house of usher
Love is evident in this short story (Poe, 2011). More especially is revealed in the way characters deal with situations or they way react when dealing with their spouses. In the poem “The Raven,” Poe’s love is reveled. Poe’s love for his beloved wife, Virginia, is revealed when she died.
It is indicated that Poe was traumatized by her demise. It is also indicated that her death became an everyday motif in his undertaking. This statement stresses the degree of love that the two had. In other words, it was almost inseparable and no of them could do without the other.
There is also brotherly love in this novel. There is a strong love between Roderick and his sister, Madeleine. It is indicated that Roderick “affectionately loved his sister” (p. 42). There affection is also based on the fact that they are twins. As the author puts, they have “an outstanding semblance” (p. 46). That is, they behaved in a way that someone could easily say they had one soul in two different bodies.
“Hill Like White Elephants”
This short story revolves around the theme of love and responsibility (Benson, 1990). The author has used abortion to show how much the American man loves her pregnant girlfriend named Jig. However, the love showed by the American man is selfish. That is, he does not extent it beyond his girlfriend. This is evidenced when the boyfriend says, “Ill stay with you.” He also added, “I do not want anyone else, but you” (p.161).
Basing on this utterance, it is also clear that the American man is taking advantage of the love he has for his girlfriend to convince her to have the abortion. However, the girlfriend does not actually feel the same as she loves both of them. This is evident from the way she turned him down saying, “Would you please stop talking” (p. 298). Generally, this shows that her love is not selfish and that she is the man’s superior in sensitivity, imagination and above all, capacity for love.
As it has been established in the discussion, the theme of love is espoused in the three novels. In the “Hill Like White Elephants,” both the American man and his girlfriend show love to each other but the pregnancy is threatening their peaceful affection. Their love is therefore selfish or situational.
In the “Two Kinds,” parental love dominates. The mother feels that she has the responsibility to guide her daughter to success. Her dominance of over her daughter is also threatening their affection. The daughter feels that she is not being given space to enjoy life like other kids. However, in the end, the daughter realizes that her mother was somehow right.
In the “fall of the house of usher,” is a sad story of two twins who share brotherly love. Their situation has actually brought them together more than ever. Poe also has strong love for his beloved wife, Virginia. This is evidenced when she died as it was hard for Poe to forget her both in his personal and work life.
Benson, J. (1990). New critical approaches to the short stories of Ernest Hemingway. Durham: Duke University Press.
Poe, E. (2011). The fall of the House of Usher. New York: Books of Wonder.
Tan, A. (2006). The joy luck club. New York: Penguin Books.